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Wyden Ponders Release of CIA Torture Report Without White House Consent

Wyden was one of a bipartisan group opposing the tax extenders package. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Wyden was one of a bipartisan group opposing the tax extenders package. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A senior Senate Democrat is firing a warning shot at the White House against stalling the release of a report about the past use of torture by the U.S. intelligence community.  

Sen. Ron Wyden is talking with his colleagues about the possibility of using a seldom-invoked procedure to declassify an Intelligence Committee report on the use of torture in the event the White House does not move ahead quickly.  

Speaking with reporters on a variety of subjects Thursday, the Oregon Democrat referred to the Senate’s “Resolution 400” — the Abraham A. Ribicoff-sponsored resolution that established the Intelligence Committee back in 1976.  

Wyden said he was discussing invoking the resolution “in order to move this along if we have to, through the committee process, to get it declassified.”  

Matt Bai of Yahoo! News reported earlier Thursday that Wyden mentioned the same procedure to him. And it was not the first time he’s discussed the possibility. Wyden previously explained the provision in October 2013, KATU reported. The Senate Intelligence Committee voted on April 3 to provide for declassification of the report into the use of harsh interrogation practices by the CIA during the administration of President George W. Bush. That action set the gears in motion for declassification review. The report is now in the hands of the White House.  

Asked Thursday about a senator discussing the prospects of using legislative action to release the report, the National Security Council press office sent along a lengthy statement that did not outline a timeline for release.

“After receiving the executive summary, findings and conclusions of the RDI report from the Senate Intelligence Committee in April, the CIA and ODNI conducted a declassification review. The CIA and ODNI have submitted the report to the White House with their initial recommended redactions so that it can continue to be so coordinated with other agencies who have equities. The President has been clear that he wants this process completed as expeditiously as possible and he’s also been clear that it must be done consistent with our national security. An important goal that the Administration and the Committee share is the safety and security of our people overseas. So, prior to the release of any information related to the former RDI program, the Administration will also need to look at any potential security implications and take a series of steps to prepare our personnel and facilities overseas. We will do that in a timely fashion.”

The concern about “security implications” for American personnel abroad repeats a point made by then-White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler in an April letter to Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.  

The Intelligence Committee’s inquiry led to charges of CIA “spying” on the panel’s investigators conducting oversight of the torture program, with the intelligence community firing back that Senate staff improperly accessed and removed material. Earlier in July, the Justice Department declined to launch a formal investigation into the matter.  

Bringing up Senate Resolution 400 in conversations this week is a reminder from Wyden that the legislative branch would have recourse in the event the Obama administration stonewalls the release, a point made clear in the Senate manual:

“The select committee may, subject to the provisions of this section, disclose publicly any information in the possession of such committee after a determination by such committee that the public interest would be served by such disclosure. Whenever committee action is required to disclose any information under this section, the committee shall meet to vote on the matter within five days after any member of the committee requests such a vote. No member of the select committee shall disclose any information, the disclosure of which requires a committee vote, prior to a vote by the committee on the question of the disclosure of such information or after such vote except in accordance with this section.”

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