Pelosi unaware of Dem letter on CIA lies

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) brushed aside questions Thursday about fresh Democratic assertions that the CIA misled Congress for years.

The new claims unearth a controversy the Speaker spent weeks trying to bury for good.

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At her weekly press conference, Pelosi said she was unaware of a letter that seven Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee sent to CIA Director Leon Panetta asking him to publicly admit that his agency misled Congress. The letter followed closed-door testimony in which Panetta privately told the panel that the agency had done just that.

“I have not received that briefing yet from Director Panetta,” Pelosi said.

“I know what you know,” she continued. “I have seen the letters from the members and obviously they have concerns. The Intelligence Committee has the oversight responsibility … I’m sure they will be pursing this in the regular committee process.”

Pelosi said she is still receiving a regular intelligence briefing, but from National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, not the CIA.  She said she has spoken only once or twice to Panetta, a former House member from California, since his nomination.

In the letter from the Intelligence panel Democrats, which became public Wednesday after being sent late last month, Panetta was asked to correct a statement he made May 15, when he told CIA employees it is neither the agency’s policy nor practice to mislead Congress.

“Recently you testified that you have determined that top CIA officials have concealed significant actions from all Members of Congress, and misled Members for a number of years from 2001 to this week,” committee members wrote. “This is similar to other deceptions of which we are aware from other recent periods.”

Pelosi caused a weeklong stir in May when she first claimed at a news conference that the CIA regularly misled her during briefings related to enhanced interrogation techniques. Her claim prompted Panetta’s reassuring statement to agency employees on May 15.
 
The Intel letter was signed by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), John Tierney (D-Mass.), Rush Holt (D-N.J.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and does not specify what members were misled about. A separate letter from Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), the committee chairman, also accused the agency of lying.

Reyes sent his letter to the top Republican on the select committee, Rep. Pete Hoekstra (Mich.), an outspoken defender of the agency who spent weeks hammering Pelosi over her charges.

The accusations are flying the same day Reyes is set to bring the Intelligence Authorization Act to the House floor, a bill President Obama threatened to veto on Wednesday.

The bill, the White House said, "would impede the smooth and efficient functioning of the [intelligence community]," according to a statement of administration policy released by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

The administration is specifically concerned about a section of the bill that would restructure the current model for briefing congressional leaders.

At the moment, leaders of both parties and the top Democrat and Republican on both the House and Senate intelligence committees — the so-called "Gang of 8" — are briefed on sensitive matters. The bill would give Congress the authority to decide who is briefed on sensitive information, not the White House.

If the bill reaches Obama’s desk as written, his advisers would recommend a veto, according to the OMB statement.