For Obama, CIA spat highlights complicated role in managing post-Sept. 11 programs

The Associated Press

In this March 11, 2014, photo, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. talks to reporters as she leaves the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 11, 2014, after saying that the CIA's improper search of a stand-alone computer network established for Congress has been referred to the Justice Department. For President Barack Obama, a public spat between his trusted ally at the CIA and a loyal Democratic senator has put into sharp focus his complicated role in managing the post-Sept. 11 anti-terror programs he inherited from George W. Bush. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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The CIA says it disputes significant parts of Feinstein's 6,300-page report, which remains secret. And while Obama has said he wants to declassify parts of the report, people close to the administration say the White House is weighing the impact on current CIA officials who were involved in the harsh interrogations, as well as the possibility that new details about the program could inflame anti-American sentiment in the Arab world and in Afghanistan.

The interrogations program was one of several initiatives Obama inherited from Bush that he pledged to change or end altogether. But fulfilling each of those promises has proved deeply complicated.

Despite Obama's repeated pledges to shut down the prison for terrorist suspects at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the facility remains open. The president has run into intractable opposition from Republicans who don't want to transfer detainees to prisons in the U.S., severely limiting the administration's options.

Obama was also critical as a presidential candidate of the domestic surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency. But after moving into the Oval Office, Obama kept most of the programs in place, adding what officials said was a more robust system of checks and balances to monitor the programs.

Those steps did little to quell the controversy when NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden released a trove of documents last year revealing the vast reach of the government's surveillance programs. It was only after those revelations became public that Obama launched a review of the operations, which has resulted in some modest changes while continuing to keep the core structure of the programs in place.

In an ironic twist, Feinstein — the senator at odds with the CIA on interrogations — has been perhaps Obama's staunchest Democratic ally in backing the surveillance programs.


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