Mark Udall, who serves on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, welcomed the confirmation of Stephen Preston to be the Department of Defense's next chief counsel. Udall only supported Preston's nomination following extensive follow-up questions and clarifications surrounding his role, as the CIA's current general counsel, in shaping the agency's official response to the Senate Intelligence Committee's classified study of the CIA's detention and interrogation program.
Udall placed a hold on Preston's nomination after his testimony and written remarks during the initial confirmation process raised further questions regarding Preston's views on the agency's official response to the Senate Intelligence Committee's study. According to Udall, the CIA's response does not sufficiently acknowledge the flaws in its detention and interrogation program. Preston's answers to additional questions Udall submitted, however, confirm that Preston did not play a central role in preparing the CIA's response and that he will take congressional oversight seriously in his new role at the Pentagon.
"The chief counsel at the U.S. Department of Defense will have a leadership role in many of the critical policy issues facing our nation over the next several years. I did not take lightly my decision to delay Stephen Preston's confirmation, but did so to learn more about his role in and view of the CIA's official response to the Senate Intelligence Committee's classified study of the agency's detention and interrogation program," Udall said. "I found Mr. Preston's substantive comments on the study to be far more logical and appropriate than I found the official CIA response to be. Mr. Preston's answers to my questions have assured me that he will not bring the CIA's approach to congressional oversight to the Department of Defense."
The Senate Intelligence Committee voted in December 2012 to report out the committee's 6,000-page study, based on a documentary review of over six million pages of CIA and other records, and to send it to the CIA, other Executive Branch agencies, and the White House for review and comments. The committee received the CIA's response to its study in June 2013.
"As Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein has said, the committee's study is one of the most significant oversight efforts in the history of the United States Senate. The CIA should follow its chief counsel's lead and be honest and transparent with the American people about its wrongheaded detention and interrogation program," Udall added. "Acknowledging the flaws of the CIA's detention and interrogation program is essential for the agency's long-term institutional integrity and to ensure this never happens again. I will keep fighting to declassify as much of the study as possible. I strongly believe the American people deserve to know what their government has done on their behalf."
Udall has been a leading voice in Congress for the White House and CIA to come clean about the agency's deeply flawed detention and interrogation program. Udall also has led the push to hold the CIA accountable for leaks concerning the agency's official response to the Senate Intelligence Committee's exhaustive 6,000 page report.
Udall also has criticized statements made by former Bush administration officials on the effectiveness of enhanced interrogation techniques. Udall has decried a video presentation to be shown at the new George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum that leaves the false impression that the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques resulted in intelligence of unique value that prevented terrorist attacks in the United States.