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Truthdigger of the Week: Sen. Mark Udall

Posted on Mar 9, 2014

Photo by AP/Susan Walsh

A cynical view has been confirmed in the eight and a half months of ongoing blockbuster reporting made possible by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden: in matters of state, double-dealing is not the exception, but the rule.

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A prime offender, the CIA received the Snowden treatment in December when Colorado Sen. Mark Udall revealed in an open hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee the existence of a classified internal review the agency conducted of millions of documents covering five years of its Bush-era detention and interrogation activities. The review agrees with the Senate committee’s assessment that torture practices like waterboarding produced little valuable intelligence—but it conflicts with the official conclusion the agency gave both the committee and the public.

The discrepancy revealed by what in recent days has come to be called the “Panetta Review,” after Leon E. Panetta, the former CIA director who ordered the summary, suggests officials knowingly lied about the worth of the agency’s intelligence collection methods. Exactly how the review was unearthed is not publicly known, but The New York Times reported Friday that it was performed to give the agency a better understanding of the documents that committee investigators would pore over as a part of President Obama’s pledge during his first week in office to increase the transparency of the agency’s operations.

At least one official suspects the investigators breached a firewall that was set up to separate the network that contained the documents provided to the committee and the agency’s other digital files. Exactly what happened will not be known possibly until a Justice Department inquiry into the committee staffers’ actions is complete. A parallel inquiry into the CIA’s handling of the matter is also underway, putting the department into what New York Times reporter Mark Mazzetti called “the uneasy role of arbitrator in the bitter dispute.”

In the middle of the fray, seizing upon the opportunity to make good on Obama’s promise of transparency, remains Udall. In the hearing Dec. 17, the senator said he understood that the internal review “is consistent with the intelligence committee’s report” and “conflicts with the official CIA response to the committee’s report.” He said the existence of the report “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 response to the committee study.”


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That is the kind of plain-spoken question which, when put by a people’s representative to leaders engaged in an attempt to conceal wrongdoing, makes democracy possible. For keeping his commitment to hold his peers in office accountable, we honor Sen. Mark Udall as our Truthdigger of the Week.

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