POLITICS: PennAve

Obama sidesteps CIA-Senate fight over spying allegation

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Politics,White House,Brian Hughes,Barack Obama,CIA,Harry Reid,PennAve,Surveillance,Dianne Feinstein,Spying

President Obama declined to take sides Wednesday in a simmering feud between the Central Intelligence Agency and the Senate over whether the agency spied on a congressional panel.

“With respect to the issues that are going back and forth between the Senate committee and the CIA, [agency director] John Brennan has referred them to the appropriate authorities and they are looking into it and that's not something that is an appropriate role for me and the White House to wade into at this point,” Obama said after a meeting with female lawmakers in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

The White House has tried not to add fuel to the fire after Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., claimed the CIA monitored her committee's investigation into the use of torture in interrogations under former President George W. Bush.

At the same time, Brennan alleges that Senate staffers improperly accessed classified information and denies Feinstein’s accusations.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said earlier Wednesday that officials were given a “heads up” that the CIA was referring the spat to the Justice Department.

Though he refused to wade into the high-profile clash, Obama vowed that the information in the report about torture would soon be made public.

“We have worked with the Senate committee so that the report that they are putting forward is well-informed and what I have said is that I am absolutely committed to declassifying that report as soon as the report is completed,” Obama said.

“The one thing that I want to emphasize is that the substantive issue, which is how do we operate even when we are threatened ... even gone through extraordinary trauma has to be consistent with the rule of law and our values,” he added.

Both Republican and Democratic senators have expressed concerns over Feinstein's allegations, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., going so far as to call on Brennan to apologize.

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