By Jared Allen | Posted: 07/17/09 04:23 PM [ET] - 07/17/09 04:21 PM EDT
The House Intelligence panel is launching a wide-ranging inquiry into whether the Central Intelligence Agency has lied to Congress, the committee’s top Democrat announced on Friday.
“After careful consideration and consultation with the Ranking Minority Member and other members of the Committee, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence will conduct an investigation into possible violations of federal law, including the National Security Act of 1947,” Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) said in a statement.
Reyes said the investigation will “focus on the core issue of how the congressional intelligence committees and Congress are kept fully and currently informed.”
Since Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) – then defending how she handled information she received on waterboarding – in May first accused the CIA of regularly misleading Congress, questions about the relationship between the intelligence community and key members of Congress have swirled around the Capitol.
This past weekend, the issue emerged again after news reports that former Vice President Dick Cheney kept information from Congress about a secret CIA assassination program.
CIA director Leon Panetta, having only weeks before testified to the Intelligence committees that the CIA had mislead Congress in the past, recently told those committees that the agency also failed to inform them about the development of the assassination program.
“To this end, the investigation will examine several issues, including the program discussed during Director Panetta’s June 24th notification and whether there was any past decision or direction to withhold information from the Committee,” Reyes announced.
Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) the top Intelligence Committee Republican, blasted the plan and accused Democrats of engaging in partisan politics rather than a genuine inquiry.
“Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise that the day after Chairman Reyes and I discussed bipartisan collaboration, the Democrats, likely under pressure to defend Speaker Pelosi, backed away from the effort, instead offering a partisan plan and ignoring our previous discussions,” Hoekstra said in a statement. “As a result, they are putting their partisan conclusions ahead of the facts.”
“The chairman and I talked about doing a balanced review of congressional notifications, an issue we both agree should be reviewed,” Hoekstra continued. “Instead, they announced an investigation of 'violation' of the National Security Act when the current facts clearly do no support such an accusation.”
Reyes, though, said he was committed to continuing to work with Hoekstra on the proper framework for the hearings.
“The Ranking Minority Member and I will be working to finalize a framework agreement on these issues, which would set out a common understanding of the purpose and scope of this effort, as well as ensure that the review of these issues will be conducted in a serious, thorough, and bipartisan manner,” Reyes said. “While there may be differences of opinion with respect to specific incidents, I believe we agree that the Committee must be kept fully and currently informed of significant intelligence activities as required by law.”