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April 28, 2015

Posts in "Intelligence"

April 23, 2015

Leahy, Paul Honored Together as ‘Constitutional Champions’

Leahy and Paul were honored Wednesday evening. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Leahy and Paul were honored Wednesday evening. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Looking only at voting records, you wouldn’t expect Rand Paul and Patrick J. Leahy to share an award of any kind.

But the Kentucky Republican who’s running for president and the Vermont Democrat who is now the longest-serving senator gave remarkably similar policy speeches Wednesday evening. The remarks by the two senators to The Constitution Project’s annual awards gala highlighted the fact that on civil liberties issues, party labels aren’t representative of much.

Full story

April 22, 2015

A Possible Path Forward on Patriot Act

Burr says the new surveillance bill is a marker for negotiations. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Burr says the new surveillance bill is a marker for negotiations. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As the Senate worked its way out of two legislative knots Wednesday, passing a human-trafficking bill, 99-0, and setting up a Thursday vote on the long-delayed nomination of Loretta Lynch to be attorney general, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said the path to reauthorizing surveillance activities would be a lot easier if the White House engaged Congress sooner rather than later.

“The White House usually keeps everything close to the vest until all of a sudden, you produce a piece of legislation and then they’re open to share with you their problems with it,” Sen. Richard M. Burr said. “I wish they’d adopt another strategy.”

The North Carolina Republican joined Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in introducing a bill late Tuesday that just might get an administration reaction. It would effectively extend the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, such as those related to bulk collection of phone and other records under the law’s Section 215, through a prospective lame-duck session at the end of the next president’s first term. Burr said that was a marker for negotiating. The authorization is set to lapse at the beginning of June.

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April 21, 2015

Leahy Slams McConnell Push to Extend NSA Surveillance Authority

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy vowed to block efforts by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to extend authorization to collect phone and other records of Americans in bulk through 2020. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 10:49 p.m.
Intelligence

April 14, 2015

Senate’s To-Do List Keeps Getting Longer (Video)

McConnell outlined an extremely busy legislative calendar. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

McConnell outlined an extremely busy legislative calendar. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A debate over Iran may highlight the Senate’s agenda, but it already seems like there might be too much to do.

Sen. Bob Corker’s efforts to get broad support for bipartisan legislation to provide a role for Congress in reviewing a final international agreement with Iran about nuclear weapons appears to have paid dividends. And the Corker legislation seems to be on an expedited path to the floor after a markup set for Tuesday afternoon. Full story

January 27, 2015

Feinstein Disputes CIA Report on Spying on Senate

Brennan and Feinstein (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Brennan and Feinstein (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee is disputing findings of a CIA Accountability Board review that determined no one should be punished for accessing Senate computer files.

“The bottom line is that the CIA accessed a Senate Intelligence Committee computer network without authorization, in clear violation of a signed agreement between the committee and former Director Leon Panetta,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in a statement. “That access, and the subsequent review of committee staff emails, breaches the constitutional separation of powers between Congress and the executive branch.”

Feinstein was the panel’s chairwoman last year, when she revealed that files used by committee staff as part of the landmark investigation into the use of torture techniques by the agency had been improperly accessed. In effect, the CIA had spied on the Senate. Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 11:05 a.m.
Intelligence

January 14, 2015

Review Finds No Grounds for Discipline in Senate ‘Spying’ Matter

A review commissioned by the CIA has determined that agency personnel should not face discipline for improperly accessing Senate computer files.

Former Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., was tasked with chairing the Agency Accountability Board by CIA Director John O. Brennan.

“The Board found that no discipline was warranted for the five CIA personnel under review because they acted reasonably under the complex and unprecedented circumstances involved in investigating a potential security breach in the highly classified shared computer network, while also striving to maintain the sanctity of SSCI work product,” Bayh said in a statement. “Because there was no formal agreement — or even clear common understanding — governing the procedures to be followed in investigating a potential security incident in these circumstances, no course of action was free of potential complication or conflict.”

Full story

December 22, 2014

Senator Calls on White House to Host Showing of Pulled Sony Film

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Vitter wants the White House to hold a screening of the Sony film “The Interview.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

One senator wants President Barack Obama to invite members of Congress to the White House for a screening of “The Interview.”

That’s the James Franco and Seth Rogen comedy from Sony Pictures Entertainment that the studio pulled after a hacking which the FBI says North Korea is responsible for. The movie plot centers on an effort to kill North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

In a Dec. 19 letter to Obama, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said the president should host an event to show the movie when the 114th Congress convenes in January.

Full story

December 9, 2014

McCain and a ‘Unique Moral Perspective’ on Torture (Video)

CIA Torture Report

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As the Senate Intelligence Committee’s CIA torture report roiled Capitol Hill Tuesday, Sen. John McCain framed the argument as one of moral clarity, all the while bumping up against his party leaders.

“I rise in support of the release, the long-delayed release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s summarized, unclassified review of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques that were employed by the previous administration to extract information from captured terrorists,” the Arizona Republican said on the Senate floor. “I believe the American people have a right, indeed responsibility, to know what was done in their name, how these practices did or did not serve our interests, and how they comported with our most important values.” Full story

Feinstein Unveils CIA Torture Report (Updated) (Video)

CIA torture report

Feinstein and Udall. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 12:28 p.m. | Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein unveiled the executive summary of her committee’s much-anticipated report on acts of torture used by the CIA Tuesday.

“This document examines the CIA’s secret overseas detention of at least 119 individuals and the use of coercive interrogation techniques — in some cases amounting to torture,” the California Democrat said in a statement announcing the release.

Feinstein said on the Senate floor there might never be a good time to release the report, but it is important to do so. The release of the report, Feinstein said, must change how the CIA works and prevent any future use of torture.

The release of the report, Feinstein said, must change how the CIA works and prevent any future use of torture.

“Never again,” she said.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 11:19 a.m.
Intelligence

December 5, 2014

Kerry Warns Feinstein of CIA Torture Report’s Possible Impact on Hostages

(Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In happier times. (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Secretary of State John Kerry warned Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein Friday about the possible impact of her committee’s imminent CIA torture report on American hostages and the war on ISIS.

“He called his former colleague to discuss the broader implications of the timing of the report’s release because a lot is going on in the world, and he wanted to make sure that foreign policy implications were being appropriately factored into timing. These include our ongoing efforts against ISIL and the safety of Americans being held hostage around the world,” State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. “That anyone would mischaracterize this call or question reasonable, proper, private discussions raises questions about what they’re trying to accomplish.”

Feinstein, a California Democrat, said Thursday that she had reached agreement with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on remaining redaction issues and that the report for public release was being printed.
Full story

December 4, 2014

Deal Reached, CIA Torture Report to Be Released Next Week

CIA Torture Report

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A long-awaited summary of a Senate investigation into torture is coming next week.

Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., confirmed to CQ Roll Call that an agreement has been reached with the Obama administration on releasing the summary of her panel’s investigation into the use of torture by the CIA during the George W. Bush presidency.

“We’re in the process of printing it,” she said. The report is expected to be released next week.

Full story

December 3, 2014

Amid CIA Torture Dispute, McDonough Meets Again With Feinstein

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough met with Sen. Dianne Feinstein late Wednesday amid a simmering dispute with the Intelligence Committee chairwoman over redactions the administration wants to make to her panel’s report on torture by the CIA. Full story

December 1, 2014

Leahy, Cornyn Oppose CIA-Proposed Email Retention Regime

Cornyn and Leahy (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Cornyn and Leahy (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Two senior senators came out strongly Monday against a CIA plan to purge most of its email.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, called on the nation’s archivist to deny the Central Intelligence Agency permission to adopt a new email retention policy they said would make the agency less transparent.

“We are concerned that this policy would undermine the ability of citizens to understand how their government works and hold it accountable,” the two said in a letter. “In an era when critically important government activities and decisions are conducted via email, a plan to delete the majority of emails at any agency should raise great concern.”

Leahy is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Cornyn is a veteran member of the panel. Full story

November 20, 2014

Senate Democrats Press McDonough on CIA Torture Report

McDonough, right, drew fire from Senate Democrats during a private meeting Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

McDonough, right, was under pressure from Senate Democrats during a private meeting Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee pressed White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on Thursday to allow pseudonyms to be released in a summary of a panel report on CIA interrogation abuses.

“The report would be a pseudo report if we didn’t allow the pseudonyms,” said Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who is on the panel.

Udall’s comments came after Democrats met for more than three hours with McDonough. But the entire meeting was not spent on the topic of the report, Udall said.

Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and other Democrats on the panel, including Udall, have been negotiating with the White House on a redacted summary of the report, which they hope to release to the public.

“I asked the chief of staff to take another look at this for me with the president,” said Udall, who lost his re-election bid to Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo.

Full story

November 19, 2014

Negotiations Over CIA Torture Report Nearing End

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein expects her panel’s long-delayed report on the CIA’s use of torture to be released before Republicans take over the chamber, signaling to reporters there’s one sticking point left.

“Well, no one wants to move that more quickly than I do,” said the California Democrat. “We are down to essentially one item in the redaction. It happens to be a very sensitive and important item.” She didn’t elaborate.

Feinstein has been negotiating with the White House for months over redactions to the report’s executive summary, with Democrats on the panel routinely ridiculing efforts by the CIA to redact large portions of the report. Full story

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