Wyden, Bond, Senators Ask for Review of Classified Information in Senate Intelligence Report, Say Documents Were Overclassified
Request Marks First Time New Board Asked to Review Classification
Washington, DC - A bipartisan group of Senators who serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee today asked an independent board that oversees classification of information to review the documents to determine if in fact too much was kept secret in the recently released Senate Intelligence reports.
in a letter to the head of the Public Interest Declassification Board, the Senators wrote, "The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, on which we serve, recently released two reports addressing prewar intelligence issues regarding Iraq. We believe that portions of these two reports remain unnecessarily classified. We ask that the Board Review these two documents and evaluate whether any of the currently classified portions could be made public without negatively impacting national security."
The bipartisan letter, initiated by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Kit Bond (R-MO), also was signed by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mike DeWine (R-OH), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Vice Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV).
During passage of the 2004 Intelligence Reform Act, Wyden and a bipartisan group of Senators worked to expand the mandate of the Public Interest Declassification Board to make recommendations on whether or not documents were properly classified. The Senators worked the next year to secure funding for the Board, which met for the first time this year.
The Senators' request to the Board will mark the first time that a Member of Congress has taken advantage of the Board's function as a watchdog of classification policy. Wyden noted the Board could provide judgments independent of both the Congress and the Administration as to classification.
The first of the two reports, which was approved by the Intelligence Committee 14-1, analyzes post-invasion findings regarding Saddam Hussein's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction and links to terrorism. It concludes that the Saddam regime did not possess weapons of mass destruction and was not actively pursuing them. It also concludes that Saddam did not have an active relationship with Al-Qaida and generally was distrustful of Osama bin Laden and his associates.
The second report examines the use of intelligence provided by the Iraqi National Congress (INC) to the U.S. intelligence community. That report, which the Intelligence Committee approved 11-4, concludes that the INC attempted to influence U.S. policy and provided false information through defectors about weapons of mass destruction and Saddam's links to terrorism.
"Many portions of this report have been inappropriately classified, even though releasing them would not impact national security," Wyden said. "The American people have the right to know the rest of this story, so that they can decide for themselves whether to hold public officials accountable for the statements that were made and actions that were taken that led us to war."
"Although I disagree with a number of conclusions in these reports and believe the partisan conclusions the committee voted upon are not necessarily supported by the evidence within the reports themselves, I do agree with my colleagues that too much of the report remains classified, and I am a firm believer that whatever need not remain classified, should not remain classified," Bond said.
The text of the letter follows:
September 19, 2006
L. Britt Snider
Public Interest Declassification Board
National Archives and Records Administration
700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 500
Washington, DC 20408
Dear Mr. Snider,
We congratulate you on the work that you and the rest of the Public Interest Declassification Board have done in your initial meetings this year. Overclassification of information is a problem that has plagued federal agencies for years, with consequences for performance and accountability. It is our hope that the Board's examination of various classification issues will lead to recommendations that will enhance transparency and improve the functioning of government.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, on which we serve, recently released two reports addressing prewar intelligence issues regarding Iraq. We believe that portions of these two reports remain unnecessarily classified. We ask that the Board review these two documents and evaluate whether any of the currently classified portions could be made public without negatively impacting national security.
We appreciate your consideration of this request, and look forward to your response.