The Project covertly took photographs of people believed to be CIA interrogators and gave them to defense lawyers in Cuba to show to al Qaeda inmates there. The goal was to identify the CIA officers to the terrorists for use in a possible military or civilian trial.
“I understand the CIA is greatly alarmed by the prospect of this brazen act,” said Mr. Issa, California Republican. “So am I.”
“If the terrorists at Guantanamo have learned the secret identity of agency operatives, the safety of the operatives and their families could be at risk,” he said.
Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, also a California Republican and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, has asked the Pentagon to brief the full committee on the probe. A Pentagon spokesman said a formal request for the briefing was received this week.
Mr. Issa said the Justice Department role in the probe suggests investigators are considering “whether defense attorneys and sympathetic photographers colluded in a prohibited act of providing material support to terrorists, in the revelation of the identity of covert intelligence operatives in violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, or in contravention of other laws.”
Spokesmen for the ACLU and John Adams Project have said their interaction with defense lawyers was proper and within guidelines established by U.S. military commissions.
Mr. Issa also said he would like to know if the Justice Department element of the investigation, headed by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, “is insulated from the influence of Department of Justice political appointees who may have had some connection with the issues before assuming their current roles.”
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, Mr. Holder was asked about concerns that department lawyers may have conflicts of interests related to Guantanamo inmates and whether a system is needed at Justice to deal with the problem in ways used by private law firms.
“Well, I think that’s actually a legitimate concern that you raise, and that is something that I think is worthy of consideration,” Mr. Holder said. “And that, I think, is something that we can consider at the department.”