CIA Director Fires Back: 'Not Our Policy or Practice to Mislead Congress'

ABC News' Luis Martinez reports: With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accusing the CIA of misleading Congress, CIA Director Leon Panetta sent a note to CIA employees today advising them to "ignore the noise and stay focused on the mission."Though he doesn't mention Pelosi by name, Panetta writes that CIA agents "briefed truthfully" about interrogation tactics, and takes issue with her accusations to the contrary: "Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress.  That is against our laws and our values." Here's the full memo:  Message from the Director:  Turning Down the Volume

There is a long tradition in Washington of making political hay out of our business.  It predates my service with this great institution, and it will be around long after I’m gone.  But the political debates about interrogation reached a new decibel level yesterday when the CIA was accused of misleading Congress.

Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress.  That is against our laws and our values.  As the Agency indicated previously in response to Congressional inquiries, our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of 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.

My advice -- indeed, my direction -- to you is straightforward: ignore the noise and stay focused on your mission.  We have too much work to do to be distracted from our job of protecting this country.

We are an Agency of high integrity, professionalism, and dedication.  Our task is to tell it like it is—even if that’s not what people always want to hear.  Keep it up.  Our national security depends on it.

Leon E. Panetta

UPDATE: Speaker Pelosi issued a response late Friday to Panetta's message to CIA employees.  Her written statement reads as follows:

“We all share great respect for the dedicated men and women of the intelligence community who are deeply committed to the safety and security of the American people.  My criticism of the manner in which the Bush Administration did not appropriately inform Congress is separate from my respect for those in the intelligence community who work to keep our country safe.  What is important now is to be united in our commitment to ensuring the security of our country; that, and how Congress exercises its oversight responsibilities, will continue to be my focus as we move forward.”

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