Heading Toward a Constitutional Crisis on Torture

“…Congressional oversight of the Intelligence Community was relatively stringent    and aggressive and defined by a bipartisan understanding that Congress played a key part in ensuring the intelligence agencies remained competent and acted within the law.”

– “Congressional Oversight of Intelligence is Broken” Center for American Progress, 2006.

Now that the 2014 Congressional mid term election has ceded Senate control to the Republicans, President Barack Obama may assume that any further investigation into the CIA’s rendition, detention and “enhanced interrogation” (RDI) program and its efforts to block release of the Select Senate Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) report will be stifled — unless that rare individual of conscience steps forward.

What has received modest media attention and remains under the radar for most Americans is a profoundly significant yet escalating constitutional crisis between the President, the CIA and the Senate committee.  At issue are monumental statutory questions of whether the CIA has the right to spy on Congress (albeit all Americans), to sabotage a Congressional investigation into agency activities and to deny a Congressional committee its Constitutional oversight obligations. The Los Angeles Times referred to the clash as the ‘constitutional equivalent of the Watergate breakin.”

In March, 2009, SSCI Chair Diane Feinstein (D-Cal) and Minority Chair Kit Bond (R-Mo) announced, as the Senate committee with CIA jurisdiction, an oversight review of the agency’s RDI program.

The extended conflict now centers on whether the President will allow the release of the 500 page executive summary (the full 6000 page report completed in December, 2012 will not be released to the public) without Administration redactions that would significantly alter the report’s important revelations and conclusions. Feinstein told the LA Times that the proposed redactions “eliminate or obscure key facts that support the report’s findings and conclusion.”

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