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Page last updated at 18:27 GMT, Thursday, 9 July 2009 19:27 UK

CIA 'often lied to congressmen'

CIA Director Leon Panetta
Did Mr Panetta admit to lawmakers that the CIA had misled Congress?

CIA Director Leon Panetta has admitted that his agency regularly misled Congress, six members of the House Intelligence Committee have alleged.

The claims are echoed in a letter from the committee's Democratic chairman, Sylvestre Reyes.

The allegations follow a claim by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that the CIA misled her about interrogation methods.

A CIA spokesman has insisted that "it is not the policy or practice of the CIA to mislead Congress".

'Significantly lied to'

The six committee members, who are all Democrats, alleged in a letter to Mr Panetta that he "recently... testified... that top CIA officials have concealed significant actions from all Members of Congress and misled members for a number of years from 2001 to this week".

"This is similar to other deceptions of which we are aware from other periods," the letter states.

In a separate letter, Mr Reyes alleged that a "notification the Committee received [from Mr Panetta] on 24 June 2009... [has] led me to conclude that this Committee has been misled, has not been provided full and complete notifications and (in at least one case) was significantly lied to".

The BBC's Jon Donnison in Washington says that in recent months there has been much debate over how much congressional leaders were told during the Bush administration about controversial CIA interrogation techniques such as water-boarding.

In particular, our correspondent says, Republicans have accused Mrs Pelosi, a Democrat, of lying about how much she knew about such methods.

Republicans say this latest accusation from Mr Reyes in being used as a distraction to shift attention away from Mrs Pelosi.

Mrs Pelosi insists that she was not told that the CIA had used water-boarding on prisoners, and that any suggestion by the CIA that she had been notified is untrue.

The row takes place as Democrats in Congress are attempting to push through new rules governing who is allowed to declassify secret information.

They want to give the chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees the power to open up classified information to the other members of their committees.

The proposal is being fiercely opposed by the Obama White House, which insists that only the president should have the power to declassify information.



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