Intel Chief Blair Responds to Feingold on CIA’s ‘Significant Actions’
Greg Sargent reported yesterday that Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) wrote to Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence, after The Washington Post paraphrased Blair as suggesting that the CIA was never legally required to brief Congress on its controversial “significant actions.”
In a response to Feingold obtained by The Washington Independent, Blair attempted to clear up an apparent confusion. The intelligence chief said was talking about generally “err[ing] on the side of working with and notifying the Congress,” he wrote, in murky cases where notification obligations are a matter of “judgment” — and not making a statement about the legality of not informing Congress.
Here’s the text of a letter on Blair sent Feingold today:
Thank you for your July 17, 2009 letter regarding notification requirements to the Congressional intelligence oversight committees. In my discussion with the Washington Post, I never offered a legal judgment about whether the CIA was required to brief the Congressional oversight committees on this specific program; I merely indicated that whether a particular matter requires notification to the Congress often involves the exercise of judgment. My view is the following: If there are questions about whether the Congress should be notified, we err on the side of working with and notifying the Congress, and I believe that Director [Leon] Panetta did the right thing in notifying the intelligence oversight committees of this program within 24 hours of learning of it. We view Congress as a partner.
I appreciate your concerns about these important issues and share your desire to improve the transparency and openness between the Intelligence Community and the Congress.
Feingold had requested legal analysis from Blair and his general counsel about withholding information on the still-secret program from Congress.
Update: This post has been edited for clarity.