The House Intelligence Committee could not proceed yesterday with a briefing on a plane shot down over Peru because Justice Department officials declined to be sworn in, Politico and The Associated Press reported today.
The officials and panel members were supposed to discuss an internal CIA report on the 2001 incident, which resulted in the deaths of two American missionaries. A U.S. reconnaissance plane used to spot drug traffickers notified Peruvian officials of the Cessna 185, which was shot down by the country’s air force after the aircraft did not identify itself, according to a 2001 CNN report.
The closed-door briefing was supposed to be an informal meeting, which usually does not require an oath to be taken, according to The AP.
DOJ spokesperson Tracy Schmaler told the news wire that DOJ personnel “have previously briefed committee staff on this matter and were prepared to provide a similar informal briefing to committee members.”
“We are unaware of any precedent for Department officials providing informal briefings to be placed under oath,” she told The AP.
Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the ranking member of the panel, criticized the Attorney General for his staffers’ refusals to testify under oath.
“Why is Attorney General Eric Holder afraid of having Justice Department employees be required to tell the truth?” Hoekstra told The AP. He added that it is part of a “disturbing pattern that has emerged of the Obama administration refusing or finding reasons to refuse to share information with Congress.”
The House and Senate are working on bills that would force the White House to give more disclosures on intelligence information. President Obama has threatened a veto on this legislation if it approved by Congress, according to The AP.