Without invoking executive privilege, the White House has reportedly shielded about 9,400 documents from Senate investigators probing the interrogation tactics of terror suspects, potentially placing President Barack Obama in the middle of the clash between the CIA and Senate Intelligence Committee.
The top-secret documents were withheld over the last five years, McClatchy reported.
Senate Intelligence Committee head Dianne Feinstein in a floor speech Tuesday accused the CIA of spying on her committee’s computer network during an investigation into the agency’s Bush-era enhanced interrogation measures on terrorist suspects.
Addressing the allegation Wednesday, Obama said the administration has worked with the Senate committee since he came into office.
“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 believe they were contrary to our values as a country,” Obama said. “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’ve said is that I am absolutely committed to declassifying that report as soon as the report is completed.”
The president said that CIA Director John Brennan has referred the allegations to the Justice Department.
“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,” Obama said. “But the one thing that I want to emphasize is the substantive issue—which is how do we operate even when we’re threatened, even when we’ve gone through extraordinary trauma—has to be consistent with rule of law and our values.”
The White House confirmed to McClatchy that a “small percentage” of the 6.2 million pages of documents provided to the committee were “set aside because they raise executive branch confidentiality interests.” The White House also said it had worked closely with the committee “to ensure access to the information necessary to review the CIA’s former program.”
The intelligence committee, the CIA and the White House held various discussion on materials since the probe began about the release of various material, but failed to resolve disagreements. Feinstein wrote several letters in 2013 to White House chief counsel Kathryn Ruemmler seeking a resolution, McClatchy reported. A White House official told the news service that Ruemmler responded to Feinstein’s inquiries, even though the news service obtained other information that indicated Ruemmler had not responded.