Wednesday, November 09, 2005

CIA wants Justice review of leaks on prison story


CIA wants Justice review of leaks on prison story

By Vicki Allen and David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The CIA has asked the Justice Department to review a possible leak of classified information to The Washington Post for an article on a secret CIA global prison system, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, top Republicans in Congress called for a joint House of Representatives-Senate probe on whether classified material was leaked and national security damaged.

"The leak of classified information contained in the Washington Post story has been referred to the Justice Department by the CIA," said a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"It's illegal to leak classified information and classified information was leaked to the Washington Post," the official said.

The newspaper reported last week that the CIA has been holding and interrogating al Qaeda captives at a secret facility in Eastern Europe, part of a global covert prison system established after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

The Bush administration has not confirmed or denied the report.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois in a letter asked the intelligence committees to determine if the information given to the newspaper was classified and accurate, who leaked it and under what authority, and the actual and potential national security damage from it.

Asked whether the Republican leaders would seek an investigation of the secret prisons, Ron Bonjean, Hastert's spokesman, said, "First we're looking into why we have people leaking classified information."

Democrats said instead of just investigating possible leaks related to that story, Republicans should allow a broad investigation on detainee abuses and whether the Bush administration manipulated intelligence before the Iraq war.

"If the speaker and the majority leader in the Senate are interested in this, they should join with us in getting to the bottom of what went on in bringing this country to war," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat.


President George W. Bush has been dogged by questions over the Pentagon's and the CIA's treatment of terrorism suspects. Responding to questions on Monday in Panama, Bush said, "We do not torture," and defended his administration's efforts to stop Congress from imposing rules on prisoner treatment.

The administration also has been hit by the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on five counts of obstructing justice, perjury and lying in the two-year probe into the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity after her husband criticized the Iraq war.

Democrats had pushed for an independent commission to probe abuses of terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. But voting 55-43, the Senate largely on party lines on Tuesday rejected the commission in an amendment to a defense policy bill.

Democrats said an independent review was essential to determine whether Bush administration policies led to the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and elsewhere, but Republicans said the Pentagon already had conducted investigations and prosecutions were ongoing.

Democrats and some Republicans have cited The Washington Post story as another reason Congress must set rules for the treatment of military detainees in the wake of the scandal over physical and sexual abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The Senate has passed an amendment barring torture of detainees and setting standards for their treatment and interrogations, despite the White House's threat to veto a $440 billion defense spending bill if it contained the measure.

The House has not yet voted on that measure.

(additional reporting by Joanne Kenen, Susan Cornwell, Thomas Ferraro and Caren Bohan)