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Posted at 6 p.m. on March 12, 2014
President Barack Obama wants to stay out of the feud between the Senate Intelligence Committee and his own CIA.
“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 Wednesday.
While the matter’s been referred to the Justice Department, one senior GOP senator has raised the prospect of needing a special prosecutor.
Obama’s first public comments came one day after a remarkable floor speech by Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in which she indicated the CIA improperly conducted surveillance on computer files used by committee staff investigating the agency’s interrogation policies during the George W. Bush administration. CIA Director John O. Brennan denied the alleged spying by his agency on the Senate.
Potential improper handling of CIA documents by Senate staff, as well as the matter involving the computer system used by the committee, have been separately referred to the Justice Department.
Sen. John McCain questioned who would be the appropriate investigators.
“It deserves an investigation, and a serious one,” the Arizona Republican said. “The question is, is where do you find the objective investigator or investigators. I think that’s something we’ve got to wrestle with because obviously [there are] allegations of bias everywhere. I don’t know all the answers.
“You may need a special prosecutor, some kind of special investigation, because there are allegations about the person who right now is in charge,” McCain said.
“I do know that things were done — water-boarding — that in my view that were totally unacceptable,” McCain said, noting that the Senate adopted an amendment to prohibit the practice. “A lot of bad things were done before we were able to get that done.”
On that underlying question of the use of torture, Obama reiterated that he would like to see parts of the Intelligence Committee’s findings made public.
“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,” Obama said. “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.”