Friday, May 01, 2009
I received your letter and understand your support for holding the Bush Administration accountable for the warrantless surveillance program of American citizens and the CIA's detention and interrogation programs. I strongly agree that the Bush Administration made grave mistakes while in office.
The fact that President Bush went outside of the bounds of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) after 9/11 was, in my view, unnecessary and an overreach of the Executive Branch. Last year, Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act to ensure that abuses like the Terrorist Surveillance Program do not occur again. While that legislation provided immunity from prosecution for private telecommunications companies that may have provided assistance to the government, Congress has taken no action to affect lawsuits against the former government employees who created or authorized the program. There are pending lawsuits now against some of these employees that are under judicial review.
On March 5, 2009, the Senate Intelligence Committee, which I chair, announced that we will conduct an intensive, bipartisan review of the CIA detention and interrogation programs. This review will closely examine how these CIA programs were created and operated, the conditions of detention and the implementation of interrogation techniques, whether they complied with official authorizations, and their effectiveness in producing credible, actionable intelligence information. I expect the review will take approximately one year. Attached to this letter, you will find my press release on this important issue.
Additionally, President Obama has signed three Executive Orders that require the closure of Guantanamo Bay, establish the Army Field Manual as the exclusive standard for all U.S. government interrogations, close CIA black sites, and require that the International Committee of the Red Cross have notification of and access to any detainees held in U.S. custody. I am committed to working with the President to evaluate what changes in law are needed and what provisions in these Executive Orders should be codified through an act of Congress.
Obtaining credible, actionable intelligence remains a cornerstone of U.S. efforts to combat terrorism, but this must be done in a way that is fully consistent with U.S. laws and safeguards the constitutional and privacy rights of Americans. I welcome you to be in touch with my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841, if you have any additional input as these reviews progress. Best regards.
United States Senator