WASHINGTON — Congressional aides said Thursday that Democratic leaders are prepared to soften a proposal that more lawmakers be briefed on secret CIA operations, to make an intelligence bill more acceptable to the White House.
The Obama administration had threatened to veto the bill because of a requirement to expand the number of lawmakers receiving the briefings from the current eight — the top party leaders in the Senate and House and the Democratic and Republican leaders of the intelligence committees — to nearly the 40 people on the two intelligence committees.
Democrats revealed Wednesday that CIA director Leon Panetta had told them June 24 that the CIA had not fully briefed lawmakers on a secret program. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, said that in one case, the CIA outright lied to his committee.
Panetta has ordered a senior officer to conduct an internal investigation and to find ways to keep Congress better informed, according to an official familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter. He characterized the secret program as sporadic and undertaken in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
An office within the CIA alerted Panetta that Congress had not been adequately briefed on the program, the official said, and Panetta brought the matter to the House Intelligence Committee the next day.
In a related move, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., asked the FBI to investigate possible criminal wrongdoing by CIA employees for the notification failure.
Congress has long expressed frustration with the amount of information it is given about secret intelligence matters.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Thursday that Reyes is in discussions with the White House about potential changes in the bill. The measure, expected to be taken up Thursday, has been delayed until next week because the legislative calendar is full.
Pelosi, who in May accused the CIA of lying to her about its interrogation program, said she had been unaware of the June 24 revelations by Panetta until her office received calls from reporters.
House aides said the White House and the Democratic-controlled Congress agree that congressional notifications about intelligence activities need to be improved.