President Barack Obama commented on the mounting tensions between the Senate and Central Intelligence Agency on Wednesday, offering a statement from the White House.
Obama said he supports declassification of a forthcoming Senate Intelligence Committee report on President George W. Bush-era detention and interrogation programs at the CIA. Some senators have alleged the CIA monitored their use of a network given to Congress to look at confidential files while compiling the report. In his statement, Obama said CIA Director John Brennan had referred the matter “to the appropriate authorities.”
Here’s the President’s full statement, which he made before a meeting with female members of Congress:
“The first day I came into office, I ended the practices that are subject to the investigation by the Senate committee, and have been very clear that I believed they were contrary to our values as a country. Since that time, we have worked with the Senate committee so that the report that they are putting forward is well informed and what I have said is that I am absolutely committed to declassifying that report as soon as the report is completed. In fact, I would urge them to go ahead and complete the report and send it to us and we will declassify those findings so that the American people can understand what happened in the past and that can help guide us as we move forward. With respect to the issues that are going back and forth between the Senate committee and the CIA, John Brennan has referred them to the appropriate authorities and they are looking into it and that’s not something that is an appropriate role for me and the White House to wade into at this point. But the one thing that I want to emphasise is that the substantive issue, which is how do we operate even when we are threatened, even when even gone through extraordinary trauma has to be consistent with the rule of law and our values. And I acted on that on the first day and that hasn’t changed.”
Obama’s statement comes one day after Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, made what was a private feud exceedingly public.
In an extraordinary, charged speech on the Senate floor, Feinstein levied charges that the CIA may have broken the law and violated the U.S. Constitution when it searched the computer network established for Congress. The incident in question occurred in December, when Intelligence Committee investigators got ahold of an internal agency review casting a particularly bad light on the interrogation and detention programs, which Obama noted he ended.
“The CIA did not ask the committee or its staff if the committee had access to the internal review or how we obtained it,” Feinstein said in her blistering remarks Tuesday. “Instead, the CIA just went and searched the committee’s computer.”
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