Udall bucks Obama on nomination for CIA general counsel

A fight over a CIA report on the agency’s detention and interrogation program has placed U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., otherwise one of President Barack Obama’s most reliable supporters, at odds with the president.

Udall, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote to Obama last week, telling him he wouldn’t support Obama’s nominee for the general counsel of the CIA.

Udall’s letter, however, included a paragraph that caught the attention of several news organizations.

“As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the (Intelligence) Committee in relation to the CIA review, and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee’s oversight responsibilities and for our democracy. It is essential that the Committee be able to do its oversight work consistent with our constitutional principle of the separation of powers — without the CIA posing impediments or obstacles as it is today.”

The letter gave no details about what constituted “unprecedented action” by the CIA, but Udall did say in an interview in Washington, D.C., that “The CIA tried to intimidate the Intelligence Committee, plain and simple. I’m going to keep fighting like hell to ensure the agency never tries to dodge congressional oversight again.”

Udall staffers also noted for perspective a column in U.S. News and World Report by Peter Fenn, who recalled his days as a staffer for the Church Committee investigating intelligence activities and said he had learned that two U.S. senators, Idaho Democrat Frank Church and Tennessee “Republican Howard Baker, were monitored.

“Now we see a pattern of behavior which indicates that the CIA did not learn its lesson,” Fenn, now a Democrat political strategist, wrote. ” It has reverted back to the same tactics and “ends justifies the means” approach it was using in the mid-20th century.”

Udall said in the letter that it is “imperative” that a 6,300-page Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program be declassified to the maximum extent possible.

Declassification decisions shouldn’t be left to the CIA, but should be made by the White House, Udall said in the letter.

Much of the information that has been released so far is “misleading and inaccurate,” Udall wrote.

“I know we share the assessment that the use of coercive interrogation techniques by our country was a grave mistake that ran counter to our values and founding principles, as well as counter to our national security interests,” Udall wrote.

Krass previously tangled with Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., saying she opposed giving members of Congress access to Justice Department legal findings that guide interrogations and drone strikes.

The campaign for U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., considered the leading GOP challenger to Udall, didn’t respond to a request for comment.


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