Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman John Rockefeller (D-WV) reacted angrily yesterday to the New York Times’ revelation that the Bush administration gave the CIA secret approval in 2005 to use harsh interrogation techniques. Rockefeller is demanding copies of all the administration’s opinions on interrogation since 2004.
In this afternoon’s White House press briefing, spokeswoman Dana Perino asserted members of Congress, including Rockefeller, had been “fully briefed” on the secret opinions:
PERINO: I believe that the members that have been briefed are satisfied that the policy of the United States and the practices do not constitute torture.
QUESTION: But, Dana, what have they been briefed on? If they haven’t actually seen, like the 2005 legal opinions, they’ve just been briefed in general. You’re selecting what…
PERINO: What I can tell you, and I have been assured they have been fully briefed.
QUESTION: Fully briefed on the actual memos?
QUESTION: OK. So then why are people like Senator Jay Rockefeller, who’s the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, saying, I’m getting more information from the New York Times than from the White House?
PERINO: I don’t know. I don’t know, but I checked and I am confident that the members were briefed.
Perino couldn’t say what members were briefed about, except to utter the talking point that they were briefed. Watch it:
Sen. Rockefeller issued a statement today rejecting the White House’s contention that he had been “fully briefed” on the CIA detention and interrogation program:
The Administration can’t have it both ways. I’m tired of these games. They can’t say that Congress has been fully briefed while refusing to turn over key documents used to justify the legality of the program.
The reality is, the Administration refused to disclose the program to the full Committee for five years, and they have refused to turn over key legal documents since day one. As I have said from the beginning, Congress has a constitutional responsibility to determine whether the program is the best means for obtaining reliable information, whether it is fully supported by the law, and whether it is in the best interest of the United States.
The White House has very little credibility in asserting that it has briefed members of Congress on its counterterrorism activities. With respect to the NSA domestic wiretapping program and other spying programs, the White House repeatedly claimed that key lawmakers were briefed on those activities. However, those assertions have never held up in the past.