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Good move:

Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., has a "hold" -- a procedural tool to stall a nomination -- on the Obama administration's pick to be the Central Intelligence Agency's top lawyer, his office told NBC News Wednesday.

Caroline Krass, nominee to be CIA general counsel, told the Senate Intelligence Committee in December that she doesn't believe Congress should have access to the legal memos that govern CIA activities such as interrogation and drone strikes.

The hold is another data point in the suddenly explosive fight between the executive and legislative branches over the investigation into the CIA's use of enhanced interrogation techniques beginning during the President George W. Bush administration. And it's an example of a rift between Democrats in the Senate and President Obama's national security officials. - NBC News, 3/12/14

A little background info for you:

As one of his first acts in office, President Obama signed an executive order reversing the interrogation and detention practices of the Bush administration. That same year, the Senate Intelligence Committee started work on a study of the CIA's now-defunct interrogation and detention program.

According to The Post's Ellen Nakashima, the 6,300 -page study prepared by the committee supposedly concluded that the harsh interrogation techniques (such as waterboarding) deployed by the CIA failed to produce significant intelligence and the agency misled the public and their congressional overseers about their efficacy at times. The CIA issued a 122-page rebuttal to the committee’s study last June that challenged its specific findings and overall conclusions.

But there's also an internal CIA review, often called the "Panetta Review" because it was started during Leon Panetta's tenure as head of the agency, that some officials say agrees with the committee's findings.  Sen. Mark Udall (D- Colo.) revealed its existence in a December hearing, saying, "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."  

"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," he said, requesting a final version of the review be provided to the Committee. - Washington Post, 3/11/14

And the latest development is really sparking more of a demand over the torture report:

“The C.I.A. just went and searched the committee’s computers,” Senator Dianne Feinstein said on Tuesday, in a speech on the Senate floor. She accused the Agency of sabotaging the oversight efforts of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which she chairs, and thus the separation of powers; engaging in “a potential effort to intimidate this staff,” by accusing them of “hacking”; breaking its word; and maybe breaking the law. “Besides the constitutional implications, the C.I.A. search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the C.I.A. from conducting domestic searches or surveillance,” she said. The C.I.A. spied on the Senate, and the senator is angry.

She may be about to get angrier. As it happened, John Brennan, the director of the C.I.A., was scheduled to appear at the Council on Foreign Relations soon after she spoke. Feinstein had described an “emergency meeting” where she was informed that “without prior notification or approval, C.I.A. personnel had conducted a search—that was John Brennan’s word,” of her staff’s computers. She said that she’d sent him letters with questions and had got no answers. At C.F.R., Andrea Mitchell, of NBC, asked Brennan about Feinstein’s complaints. “As far as the allegations of, you know, C.I.A. hacking into, you know, Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth,” Brennan replied. “We wouldn’t do that. I mean that’s, that’s, that’s—just beyond the scope of reason.”

“She says that there are potentially illegal and unconstitutional breaches by the C.I.A.,” Mitchell said.

Brennan didn’t suppress a small, wry snort. The appropriate authorities were “looking at what C.I.A. officers, as well as S.S.C.I. staff members, did,” he said, thereby suggesting that the Senate might have broken the law. Brennan:

    And, you know, when the facts come out on this, I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong.

“A lot of people”—that includes Dianne Feinstein. So we have a senator and the head of the C.I.A. more or less calling each other liars. - The New Yorker, 3/11/14

Some more background info on that:

The origins of the crisis in confidence between the CIA and the Senate intelligence committee can be traced back to December 2005, when around 100 videotapes recording the CIA’s torture of terrorist suspects were destroyed. Members of committee, kept in the dark about the CIA’s controversial interrogation and detention program, knew nothing of the destruction of video tapes until it was reported in the media, and were furious. After discussions with then CIA director Michael Hayden, the committee began an initial investigation. Shocked by its “chilling” findings, which went far beyond the CIA’s misleading account of its torture program, the committee agreed to initiate a far more expansive investigation, an endeavour that would last three years and culminate in a damning 6,300-page report, which has yet to be made public.

From the start, the CIA was suspicious about the inquiry, and refused to allow documents to be made available to the committee in the normal way. Instead, a highly unusual system was devised – which lies at the centre of the battle now being waged between the committee and the CIA. The agency proposed that the committee’s work would be conducted in a kind of of no-man’s land, overseen but not interfered with by the agency.

Around mid-2009, a secure office space was created somewhere in northern Virginia, away from CIA headquarters in Langley. This location, described by Feinstein as “a CIA-leased facility”, was staffed by CIA information technology personnel and guarded by the agency. Under the agreement, those IT staff – mostly contracted workers – were “not permitted” to share information with other CIA officials, Feinstein said. The full text of the CIA-Senate agreement has not been released, but according to Feinstein, the idea was that congressional staff would have access to CIA material, but conduct their work behind a kind of firewall, with their own “standalone computer system” and separate “network drive” that was “walled off” and “segregated from CIA networks”.

Although they were working independently from the CIA, the Senate aides were nonetheless dependent upon the agency for the material that would form the basis of their investigation. Relevant CIA documents arrived having been vetted, several times over, by CIA contractors, hired to ensure the aides were not accidentally provided with the wrong documents. What began as a trickle of CIA operational cables, internal memos and emails, quickly turned into a flood of information appearing on their computer drives.

In total, there were 6.2m pages of CIA documents loaded onto the computers accessed by the Senate staff. None of them were indexed or provided in a way that would make them easy to comprehend. The agency did, however, provide the congressional staff with a search tool, allowing them to use search terms to find and locate relevant material. “It was a true ‘document dump’ that our committee staff had to go through and make sense of,” Feinstein said. - The Guardian, 3/12/14

And the Republicans are trying to use the latest news to attack Udall:

The Colorado Democrat, Republicans say, shouldn’t have disclosed internal Senate proceedings over the CIA investigation — something that some Republicans privately say should warrant an Ethics Committee review.

Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the ranking Republican on the committee, even suggested a special investigator should be appointed in order to get to the bottom of what happened between the Senate and the CIA. Chambliss did not mention Udall in his comments.

Democrats counter that Republicans are now engaging in a partisan witch hunt aimed at hurting Udall politically and providing cover to the CIA and the George W. Bush administration’s handling of the controversial interrogation and detention program. Udall, who is in a tough reelection contest this year, denies the GOP accusation — something he reiterated privately to Republican senators and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

The partisan showdown has derailed the committee’s activities for the moment, Senate sources said. Classified briefings on Iran and Syria scheduled for Thursday have been postponed so panel members can continue their fight over the investigation.

The GOP allegations are tied in part to Udall’s actions related to the nomination of Caroline Krass to serve as the CIA’s general counsel. Udall has threatened a hold on that nomination until the CIA answers more questions about its classified internal review of its detention program and interrogation techniques. At a Dec. 17 hearing on Krass’s nomination, Udall publicly revealed that the CIA’s own internal documents were in conflict with its response to a 6,300-page Senate report over the controversial post-Sept. 11 programs. The CIA announced its own review in 2009, but the probe received little attention thereafter because there were no public indications of its results.

In a March 4 letter to President Barack Obama, Udall obliquely mentioned an “unprecedented action taken by the CIA against the [Intelligence] Committee in relation to the internal CIA review, and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee’s oversight responsibilities and for our democracy.”

Udall was referring to allegations that CIA officials improperly attempted to retrieve documents from computers used by Senate Intelligence Committee staffers to conduct their review of the agency’s detention program, as well as conduct electronic searches of those computers. Feinstein and some other Intelligence Committee senators are furious over these actions, saying the CIA is trying to avoid congressional oversight.

In addition, CIA officials made a criminal referral to the Justice Department claiming that Intelligence Committee staffers improperly removed a copy of the agency’s internal review of its detention and interrogation program files. Feinstein claims this was an effort to thwart the committee’s inquiry.

The day after Udall’s letter was sent to the White House, a New York Times story on the CIA-Intelligence Committee fight ran.

“I think Mark did make some public releases that were committee-sensitive information, but that’s for the committee internally to handle,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), a member of the panel. “That’s being reviewed right now.”

Udall said “No way” when asked Wednesday whether he was involved in leaking sensitive information, stating he’s “done absolutely nothing wrong here.”

“If some of my colleagues on the Intelligence Committee really want to press the case that in referring to an executive branch abuse in my March 4 letter — what I called an ‘unprecedented action’ that the CIA had taken in relation to the internal CIA review — I have somehow violated committee rules, I am more than happy to have that debate,” Udall said. - Politico, 3/12/14

Udall's in the right here and the Republicans are trying to use it take him down.  We can't allow that to happen.  If you want to get involved or donate to Udall's re-election bid, you can do so here:

Originally posted to pdc on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 10:00 PM PDT.

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

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