WASHINGTON -- The Senate Intelligence Committee is seeking to force the Bush administration to disclose details about secret overseas prisons thought to be run by the CIA, part of a broader effort by lawmakers to compel the White House to provide more information on sensitive intelligence programs.
Legislation adopted by the committee this week would require the administration for the first time to submit reports to Congress on the treatment of terrorism suspects and the locations of the reported clandestine CIA holding cells scattered around the world.
The push for details on the secret prison sites is the latest sign of friction between Congress and the White House over access to classified information. The issue was also a focus of the confirmation process for Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who was confirmed by the Senate yesterday as director of the CIA.
Hayden was approved, 78-15, after spending much of his confirmation hearing last week defending his role in a domestic eavesdropping operation that was authorized by President Bush in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks but kept secret from all but a few members of Congress until several months ago.
The demand for fuller disclosure on the reported CIA prisons was among several provisions in an otherwise routine spending bill adopted by the intelligence committee this week that would make it harder for the White House to withhold information on highly classified programs.
Another provision would require the White House to inform members of the Senate and House intelligence committees when they are being excluded from briefings on secret programs, as many of them were in the case of the domestic wiretapping operation.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who proposed that language, said in a written statement that the provision and others were designed "to send a message to the president that we will insist on the information needed to carry out our constitutional duties."
Most Republicans on the committee opposed the disclosure provisions, but Republican Sens. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska sided with Democrats to approve them.
The CIA has never publicly acknowledged the existence of secret overseas prisons, but current and former intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, have said they exist.
Greg Miller writes for the Los Angeles Times.