Mark Udall: CIA Took “Unprecedented Action” Against SSCI on Its Own Torture Report

Mark Udall just wrote Obama a sometimes cryptic letter asking him to commit to declassifying the Senate Intelligence Report torture report. In it, he:

  • Asserts a significant amount of what has been declassified about the torture program is “misleading and inaccurate”
  • Asks for more information about what led to the development of the CIA report
  • Asks why the findings of the CIA report were not included in CIA’s (John Brennan’s) response to the torture report
  • Suggests CIA is withholding the final version of the internal CIA report that corroborates many of SSCI’s report (it has provided a draft)
  • Says he will hold Caroline Krass’ nomination to be CIA General Counsel

But I’m particularly interested in this oblique comment:

As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the Committee in relation to the internal CIA review, and I find those actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee’s oversight responsibilities and for our democracy. It is essential that the Committee be able to do its oversight work — consistent with our constitutional principle of the separation of powers — without the CIA posing impediments or obstacles as it is today.

“Unprecedented” is a pretty strong word.

Senator Udall’s office was unable to offer more clarity about this unprecedented action.

Updated: Changed the title because it implied Udall was saying this unprecedented action was about covering up torture, which is more than he said.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

19 replies
  1. Cujo359 says:

    To point out what should be blatantly obvious to most of us, “oversight” that’s done behind closed doors can quickly cease to be oversight at all.

  2. Jeff Kaye says:

    It would seem from Sen. Udall’s letter that the “unprecedented” action by the CIA was to present total lies to the committee when their own internal review made other representations. This attempt to lie to Congress is not actually “unprecedented” (consider recent revelations by the FBI that they had an asset close to Bin Laden, a fact kept from congressional 9/11 investigators), but the scope of the lies may be.

  3. reliably says:

    ‘Unprecedented’, for the CIA, would be turning over ALL relevant material when requested.

    But it doesn’t sound like that’s what happened here.

  4. john francis lee says:

    Why don’t these fake representatives of the people just read their own damned report into the congressional record. Oh for the days when men were men and so were women !

    Mike Gravel – Vietnam War, the draft, and the Pentagon Papers

    He read until 1 a.m., until with tears and sobs he said that he could no longer physically continue, the previous three nights of sleeplessness and fear about the future having taken their toll. Gravel ended the session by, with no other senators present, establishing unanimous consent to insert 4,100 pages of the Papers into the Congressional Record of his subcommittee.

    All this fake ‘drama’ … they’re not on our side. No one in Washington is on our side.

  5. Snoopdido says:

    @Jeff Kaye: Since lying to Congress is by no means unprecedented for the Intelligence Community and particularly, the CIA, I suspect that something more ominous is the “unprecedented” action by the CIA.

    Perhaps they’ve threatened to make a criminal referral to the Justice Department if the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence releases their report on the CIA torture program. Something like charging the SSCI with espionage for releasing classified information. Just like the Edward Snowden charges of espionage.

    Wouldn’t that be something for SSCI Chair Senator Diane Feinstein? Sharing a criminal indictment with Snowden.

  6. Run to Mommy says:

    Oversight work, I bet everybody got a good laugh outa that one. Udall understands that the CIA torturers hold Congress in justified contempt as a bunch of gelded cowards. He’s not stupid enough to imagine that Congress has any role as a check on executive-branch torture. For that matter, Udall knows that Obama has all the authority of Emperor Puyi of Manchuoko.

    SAVAK has been in charge ever since they counseled Obama about his insubordination,

    Udall knows the only check on Brennan’s fingernail factory is international criminal law. His plaintive petition puts CIA’s programmatic breach of the CAT where the Committee Against Torture can get it. The Committee meets in November to review US compliance with its binding obligations and commitments and its supreme law. The Inter-American Committee on Human Rights is amassing evidence too,

    and any jurisdiction can use it to nab individual torturers who venture abroad. According to Francis Boyle, the kind of expert who has interpretive authority under ICJ Charter Article 38.1.d, US torture rises to the level of a crime against humanity. Baltasar Garzon, the original torture prosecutor, now represents Wikileaks, the mother lode of evidence. Interested jurisdictions pick off small fry like Robert Lady (shame about your Hannibal Lecter villa!) and Keith Idema (shame about torturing that legislator!). As the taint of torture undermines NATO integration and public disgrace makes our head of state a joke, the US will have to sacrifice some scapegoats. Soon enough we’ll see Brennan gurning in the dock.

  7. Snoopdido says:

    Regarding outgoing NSA Director Alexander’s remarks as reported by Spencer Ackerman in the Guardian today –

    “I think we are going to make headway over the next few weeks on media leaks. I am an optimist. I think if we make the right steps on the media leaks legislation, then cyber legislation will be a lot easier,” Alexander said.”

    I wonder if the US National Security Statists aren’t contemplating the idea of instituting something like the UK’s D Notice – whereby the government issues warnings to news outlets not to publish national security stuff.

    Perhaps even something more on the order of a mandatory “do not publish” order enforced by the US Federal courts with criminal penalties for violations. Something like the secret FISA court process where the US government singularly presents in camera and ex parte its desire to censor prior publication.

    I wouldn’t be surprised that something like this would be backed by folks like HPSCI Chair Mike Rogers (R) and SSCI Chair Diane Feinstein (D) and numerous others. I don’t think it would pass both bodies of Congress today unless it was hidden away in a classified part of legislation, but who knows.

  8. orionATL says:

    since udall wrote the letter, i wonder if the cia’s action might have been to refer for criminal prosecution some senator (wadyn comes to mind for some reason), some staff member, or committee witness.

    we’ve been talking about leaders panicing, being weak, and losing their minds lately,

    i’d say these are apt desperations for cia’s effort to thwart ssci.

    i take the “as you know” to mean that udall believes obama has authorized whatever it is cia has done re ssci.

  9. orionATL says:

    anything definitive about torture runs up against the presidential “omuerta” – current presidents protect past presidents no matter what the consequences to the nation or law.

    obama was early bullied into this by cheney and quiet threats we don’t know about.

    it’s behind some of the most serious errors obi-one has made, e.g., failing to clean out the meters of manure in the doj laid down by karl kristian’s boys abd girls.

  10. Snoopdido says:

    In case you missed it, DNI Clapper and AG Holder released the following today: Department of Justice Releases Documents on Pen Registers and Trap and Trace Applications to the FISC –

    The actual document covers the period of July 1, 2000 through December 31, 2012 and is here:

  11. C says:


    As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the Committee in relation to the internal CIA review,

    Given the nature of past lies I tend to agree with you that this is a step beyond simply making up shit. But there are other alternatives beyond criminal prosecution such as: (1) Attempting to revoke access or deny access to the committee operating in the course of its duties (i.e. blowing off a supoena); (2) Attempting to spy on the committee itself; (3) Attempting to change the rules on coverage or perhaps to get members’ security clearances revoked.

    This is bad.

  12. lefty665 says:

    Snoopdioo may have hit it on the nose @7.

    “unprecedented action against the Committee in relation to the internal CIA review” That almost has to be more active than CIA noncompliance by simply refusing to turn over the report. Threatening Espionage Act charges if the committee pursues access to the report perhaps? Something like: “That’s a nice little committee you got there, be a shame if something (like a string of indictments for sedition) happened to it.”

  13. Phil Perspective says:

    I guess McClatchy and NYT have posted articles that said the CIA was spying on Senate computers re: information gathering for their torture report. Sounds like the CIA just couldn’t wait.

  14. Dredd says:

    If the evolution of civilization has such a far reaching similarity with the development of an individual, and if the same methods are employed in both, would not the diagnosis be justified that many systems of civilization — or epochs of it — possibly even the whole of humanity — have become neurotic under the pressure of the civilizing trends?” – Sigmund Freud

    Or perhaps suffering from a “brain tumor“, or both.

  15. spongebrain says:


    Based on that, I can’t help but wonder what else they’re up to.

    An interesting quote from that McClatchyDC article:

    “In question now is whether any part of the committee’s report, which took some four years to compose and cost $40 million, will ever see the light of day.”

    Surveillance is expensive, not only based on the cost of the surveillance systems themselves and the cost of employing the surveillers but also due to surveillance’s impact on the surveilled’s productivity. It puts loads on target systems that otherwise wouldn’t be there. Loads they’re not designed for. Worse yet, no code is perfect. Especially alien code intended to interact with target systems’ code, in multiple environments, and by way of networks. But I’m willing to bet surveillers have little or no concern for the adverse effects of bugs in their code on the productivity of the surveilled, at least not in a kind way.

    So I also can’t help but wonder how much the CIA’s dicking around with Senate computers impacted the study’s cost.

    As if a country, much less a planet, trying to pull itself out of an economic hole needs this crap. It wastes time. Time is money. Time is life. For goodness’ sake, get out of our way.

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