While most lame-duck politicians can’t accomplish anything in the last days of their term, Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall is being encouraged to go out in a blaze of glory on one of his signature issues — intelligence.
Activists are pressuring Udall, who returns to Washington next week to finish his term before handing his office to Republican Cory Gardner, to leak a Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,300-page report on CIA torture practices that has only come out in a heavily redacted summary form.
Those who are pushing him say there’s no reason for him not to — when his term ends, he’ll be leaving the committee anyway, and as a sitting member of Congress, he has immunity from prosecution for leaking classified material.
“Udall has nothing to lose,” Trevor Timm, the director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation wrote Wednesday in an article for The Guardian. “He can’t get kicked off any committee he won’t be a part of in two months. And he can’t be prosecuted for revealing classified information as a member of Congress.”
Udall has already been criticized for not using the privilege of his position to correct the record about NSA spying and CIA overreach that were revealed by former CIA contractor Edward Snowden. Instead, he and Sen. Ron Wyden, who also wants transparency in intelligence issues, have called for the report to be declassified through normal channels.
“[T]he declassification of the Committee Study is of paramount importance and… decisions about what should or should not be declassified regarding this issue should not be delegated to the CIA,” Udall said in March.
With these comments falling on deaf ears, transparency advocates say Udall has only one choice left to do the right thing — either release the documents or read them into the congressional record from the floor of the Senate, as Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska did in 1971 with the Pentagon Papers.
“The problem is peer pressure,” Gravel told U.S. News and World Report. “He would have to go against the pressure of his colleagues who think it’s irresponsible to give out secrets.”
Although it won’t change the outcome of the election, leaking the report would at least give Udall the chance to prove what he’d been saying during the entire campaign — that he’s an independent politician who’s not afraid to buck trends.
Udall did not reply to U.S. News’s request for comment.
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