Page last updated at 21:54 GMT, Friday, 15 May 2009 22:54 UK

CIA rejects Pelosi torture blame

Barack Obama (L) and Leon Panetta, April 2009
Mr Panetta recently took over the CIA after being appointed by Mr Obama

The CIA director has rejected claims by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that the agency misled her about the use of torture during terror interrogations.

"Let me be clear. It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress," CIA director Leon Panetta said. "That is against our laws and our values."

Ms Pelosi said on Thursday that the CIA explicitly informed her in 2002 that harsh techniques were not used.

Mr Panetta said it was now up to Congress to decide where the truth lay.

In a statement to Central Intelligence Agency employees, Mr Panetta cited a "long tradition in Washington of making political hay out of our business."

Specifically referring to Ms Pelosi's remarks, he added: "But the political debates about interrogation reached a new decibel level yesterday when the CIA was accused of misleading Congress."

Full disclosure

At a somewhat chaotic news conference on Thursday, the speaker - who used to be the leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee - turned her fire on the US spy agency.

Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened
CIA director Leon Panetta

Previously she said she had been briefed in 2002 that waterboarding and other controversial methods had been approved, but not that they had been used.

She then said the agency misled her by explicitly informing her that those methods had not been employed.

But Mr Panetta said records from the period "indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of [terrorist suspect] Abu Zubaydah, describing 'the enhanced techniques that had been employed'.

"Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened," wrote Mr Panetta, a former member of Congress who was appointed to lead the CIA by US President Barack Obama.

Questions still remain about why Ms Pelosi did not raise objections to the extreme interrogation methods at the time they were revealed.

She has denounced the measures as torture and called for a formal investigation into who authorised what and when.

The move is opposed by Republicans, who warn that Democratic leaders could also be exposed by an investigation.

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