A member of the Senate Intelligence Committee has disclosed the existence of a secret CIA internal report that has thus far been withheld from congressional oversight — and that committee members believe is critical of harsh interrogation practices used by the agency.
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., demanded that the CIA hand over a copy of the report — a study of interrogation techniques — at a confirmation hearing held Tuesday for Caroline Krass, President Barack Obama's nominee to be the CIA's general counsel.
Udall said he would not support Krass' nomination until the document is handed over, raising the possibility that he might use a congressional procedure called a "hold" to stop the nomination. The report's existence was not public knowledge until Udall questioned Krass about it during the hearing.
The CIA report is separate from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s own classified report on U.S. interrogation policies in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001 — a document that is more than 6,000 pages long and has also been kept from the public, partly because of concerns from Congress and the Obama administration over CIA objections to making the report public.
The intelligence committee’s tensions with the CIA over the committee’s own report, and the need for the agency’s cooperation with Congress, were a major focus of Tuesday's hearing, which also covered the nomination of Daniel Smith as assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research.
The dispute over the Senate report — along with revelations by former intelligence agency contractor Edward Snowden about sweeping electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency — has sparked debate over whether congressional oversight of U.S. spy agencies is effective enough.
The Senate panel approved a draft of its report a year ago, but the CIA disputes many of its findings and has not met lawmakers' requests that parts of it be made public, leaving some senators frustrated at what they see as a lack of cooperation.
During the hearing, Krass told Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the committee, that she did not believe members of the panel had the right to see documents that provide the legal basis for CIA actions, such as waterboarding and other forms of torture used by the agency in past interrogations.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she was "troubled" by Krass' answer.
Udall asked Krass to ensure that the CIA provides the committee with a copy of the internal review, initiated under former CIA Director Leon Panetta, of the agency's detention and interrogation program.
"It appears that this review ... is consistent with the intelligence committee's report, but, amazingly, it conflicts with the official CIA response to the committee's report," Udall said.
"If this is true, it raises fundamental questions about why a review the CIA conducted internally years ago and never provided to the committee is so different from the CIA's formal written response to the committee's study."
Committee Democrats have concluded that the CIA obtained little or no critical intelligence from its use of secret prisons and harsh interrogation. Several panel members offered tough criticism, and closely questioned Krass over her view of such techniques. In her replies, Krass said she considered waterboarding to be torture.
"It (the use of such techniques) was a tragic mistake of great significance in the history of this country," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.
Udall said he wanted the White House to make a public statement committing to "the fullest possible declassification" of the committee's study, and the CIA's response, before he could support Krass' nomination.
Asked if Udall would use a hold, his spokesman Mike Saccone said the senator was committed to working with the committee and the CIA on the nomination and to get the information he requested.
But, Saccone added, "he will have a full range of procedural tools to pick from to accomplish this objective."
Al Jazeera and Reuters