Seven Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee wrote to CIA Director Leon Panetta in late June and asked him to "publicly correct" his May 15, 2009 statement that it is not the "policy or practice of the agency to mislead Congress."
FOX has corroborated that the letter stems from testimony Panetta gave behind closed doors to the Intelligence Committee on June 24, 2009. According to the missive, Panetta told the committee 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.”
The lawmakers did not write the letter on official Congressional letterhead. A House source says this was not an official communication from the House Intelligence Committee. Furthermore, there was concern from others on the panel that the co-signers were trying to force Panetta to apologize for alleged problems created by the Bush Administration’s CIA.
“They wanted (Panetta) to throw (the Bush CIA) under the bus,” said a House source close who monitors intelligence matters.
The seven Democrats who signed the letter are Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), John Tierney (D-MA), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Alcee Hastings (D-CA), Adam Smith (D-WA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). It was dated June 26, 2009.
In a statement, CIA spokesman George Little says that “it is vital to keep the Congress fully and currently informed.” Little also points out that “it was the CIA itself that took the initiative to notify the oversight committees.”
House Republicans argue the letter is an effort to protect House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). She came under fire after alleging that the CIA lied to her about enhanced interrogation techniques. Pelosi now says she has confidence in the intelligence community. Republicans enjoyed a field day with speaker’s remarks and demanded she provide proof that the CIA failed to tell her the truth.
The communiqué comes just as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) also penned a brief to the top Republican on the panel, Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI). In his letter, Reyes tells Hoekstra that he had concluded “that this Committee has been misled, has not been provided full and complete notifications, and (in at least one case) was affirmatively lied to.”
The House is poised to debate an intelligence authorization bill on Thursday. In an interview with FOX, Reyes says he was concerned that Republicans might try to corner Pelosi on the interrogation flap.
“We all know there have been a number of contentious issues that have been much publicized,” said Reyes, who indicated he wrote the letter in an attempt to curb GOP efforts to target Pelosi.
“Let’s leave for the moment the politics out of it,” Reyes said. “Our national security is about the most serious thing we deal with here on Capitol Hill. And it shouldn’t be politicized.”
The House Republican leadership is signaling that it intends to make Pelosi and her allegations that the CIA misled her a key part of the intelligence legislation debate.
But Reyes conceded that his letter to quash GOP darts aimed at the speaker might be for naught.
“Obviously I can’t control what my colleagues on the other side of the aisle might do. But that’s their choice,” said Reyes. “If they want to do that, I’ll deal with that. But I certainly hope that’s not what the plan is.”
- FOX’s Jim Angle contributed to this report.