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Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is placing a hold on the man nominated to become the Defense Department's top lawyer, his office confirmed to POLITICO.

President Barack Obama tapped Stephen Preston to become the Pentagon's general counsel; Preston currently serves as the CIA's top lawyer.

"Sen. Udall had some questions that had not been answered yet, so he placed a hold on Mr. Preston's nomination in order to allow more time to get some answers," Udall's communications director Mike Saccone told POLITICO. - Politico, 8/5/13

Why is Udall doing this?

His selection had generated little controversy, but last week Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) put a hold on the nomination demanding that Preston answer questions about the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA's detention and interrogation program. At issue is whether the report should be declassified and released to the public.  

Udall, a member of the committee, has been aggressively pushing for the report’s release. Now he's using the Preston nomination for leverage. "Senator Udall still has some unanswered questions that we'd like Mr. Preston to address," said Mike Saccone, Udall's communication's director.  

The White House had been hoping Preston's confirmation would slip through before the Senate went out of session last Thursday, but Udall scotched those plans. After Preston's confirmation hearing, Udall sent the nominee a number of additional questions in writing. Saccone declined to describe the questions, which he said were classified. National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden declined comment on the development, as did spokesmen for the CIA and the Defense Department.  

Udall's maneuver, however, was applauded by the human rights community, which has been pushing for the release of the Senate interrogation report. “Senator Udall has been a tremendous leader ... and has taken real political risk in speaking out in favor of disclosing this report against CIA torture," said Andrea Prasow, senior counterterrorism counsel for Human Rights Watch. - Daily Beast, 8/5/13

Udall has been calling for declassifying the torture memo for some time now:

The Senate intelligence committee’s nearly 6,000-page report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program was raised multiple times. Sen. Mark Udall strongly advocated for the declassification of the report so the public could read it.
"….I don’t think it has to be difficult, that is the declassification, for these reasons: The identities of the most important detainees have already been declassified. The interrogation techniques themselves have been declassified. The application of the interrogation techniques to detainees has been declassified to some extent with the partial declassification of the Inspector General report. And the intelligence was declassified to a significant extent when the Bush administration described plots it claimed were thwarted as a result of the program. So long as the report does not identify any undercover officers or perhaps the names of certain countries, can you think of any reason why the report couldn’t be declassified with the appropriate number of redactions?"

Brennan’s answer was the declassification request would be taken “under serious consideration,” and there were “very weighty considerations” that need to be made when deciding to declassify the report.

When Udall asked Brennan this question, he was not just asking for Brennan’s opinion because he wanted to reveal secrets. Particularly, Udall addressed the issue of how “inaccurate information” has been shared widely on the CIA’s use of torture techniques by former and current CIA officials while “accurate information” has remained classified. “Inaccurate information” was provided by the CIA to the Justice Department, White House, Congress and the public. He wanted Brennan’s assurance that, as CIA chief, he would correct “any incorrect information.” (For what it’s worth, Brennan said yes, he would.) - Firedoglake, 2/8/13
Here's a little background info on Preston:

Before he joined the CIA in 2009, Preston was a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, where he served as a co-chairman of the firm's defense and national security practice. From 1993 to 2000, he spent stints as principal deputy and acting Defense Department general counsel, as well as U.S. Navy general counsel and U.S. Justice Department deputy assistant attorney general.

At the CIA, Preston has worked on some of the administration's most controversial matters, including the fallout from the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the U.S. drone program. Preston last year in a speech at Harvard Law School defended the spy agency, saying it is "an institution of laws and the rule of law is integral to Agency operations.

In 2011, Preston, in remarks at an American Bar Association national security conference, disputed the “pernicious drumbeat” that the CIA is a “lawless rogue” agency. Preston argued that the CIA’s internal and external controls make it one of the most heavily regulated federal agencies. - The BLT, 6/11/13

I'll be interested to see how this plays out.

Originally posted to pdc on Mon Aug 05, 2013 at 10:30 PM PDT.

Also republished by Colorado COmmunity and The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

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