CIA Admits It Broke Into Senate
Senators Call For Spy Chief’s Ouster
By Jonathan S. Landay and Ali Watkins
August 01, 2014 "ICH"
- WASHINGTON — An
internal CIA investigation confirmed allegations
that agency personnel improperly intruded into a
protected database used by Senate Intelligence
Committee staff to compile a scathing report on the
agency’s detention and interrogation program,
prompting bipartisan outrage and at least two calls
for spy chief John Brennan to resign.
“This is very,
very serious, and I will tell you, as a member of
the committee, someone who has great respect for the
CIA, I am extremely disappointed in the actions of
the agents of the CIA who carried out this breach of
the committee’s computers,” said Sen. Saxby
Chambliss, R-Ga., the committee’s vice chairman.
display of bipartisan fury followed a three-hour
private briefing by Inspector General David Buckley.
His investigation revealed that five CIA employees,
two lawyers and three information technology
specialists improperly accessed or “caused access”
to a database that only committee staff were
permitted to use.
inquiry also determined that a CIA crimes report to
the Justice Department alleging that the panel staff
removed classified documents from a top-secret
facility without authorization was based on
“inaccurate information,” according to a summary of
the findings prepared for the Senate and House
intelligence committees and released by the CIA.
conclusions, Buckley found that CIA security
officers conducted keyword searches of the emails of
staffers of the committee’s Democratic majority _
and reviewed some of them _ and that the three CIA
information technology specialists showed “a lack of
candor” in interviews with Buckley’s office.
inspector general’s summary did not say who may have
ordered the intrusion or when senior CIA officials
learned of it.
the briefing, some senators struggled to maintain
their composure over what they saw as a violation of
the constitutional separation of powers between an
executive branch agency and its congressional
only people watching these organizations, and if we
can’t rely on the information that we’re given as
being accurate, then it makes a mockery of the
entire oversight function,” said Sen. Angus King, an
independent from Maine who caucuses with the
findings confirmed charges by the committee
chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that
the CIA intruded into the database that by agreement
was to be used by her staffers compiling the report
on the harsh interrogation methods used by the
agency on suspected terrorists held in secret
overseas prisons under the George W. Bush
findings also contradicted Brennan’s denials of
Feinstein’s allegations, prompting two panel
members, Sens. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Martin
Heinrich, D-N.M., to demand that the spy chief
“I have no
choice but to call for the resignation of CIA
Director John Brennan,” Udall said in a statement.
“The CIA unconstitutionally spied on Congress by
hacking into Senate Intelligence Committee
computers. This grave misconduct not only is
illegal, but it violates the U.S. Constitution’s
requirement of separation of powers. These offenses,
along with other errors in judgment by some at the
CIA, demonstrate a tremendous failure of leadership,
and there must be consequences.”
committee member, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and some
civil rights groups called for a fuller
investigation. The demands clashed with a desire by
President Barack Obama, other lawmakers and the CIA
to move beyond the controversy over the “enhanced
interrogation program” after Feinstein releases her
committee’s report, which could come as soon as next
members demanded that Brennan explain his earlier
denial that the CIA had accessed the Senate
Brennan should make a very public explanation and
correction of what he said,” said Sen. Carl Levin,
D-Mich. He all but accused the Justice Department of
a coverup by deciding not to pursue a criminal
investigation into the CIA’s intrusion.
there might have been information that was produced
after the department reached their conclusion,” he
said. “What I understand, they have all of the
information which the IG has.”
that the scandal goes further than the individuals
cited in Buckley’s report.
it’s very clear that CIA people knew exactly what
they were doing and either knew or should’ve known,”
said Levin, adding that he thought that Buckley’s
findings should be referred to the Justice
with knowledge of the issue insisted that the CIA
personnel who improperly accessed the database
“acted in good faith,” believing that they were
empowered to do so because they believed there had
been a security violation.
no malicious intent. They acted in good faith
believing they had the legal standing to do so,”
said the knowledgeable person, who asked not to be
further identified because they weren’t authorized
to discuss the issue publicly. “But it did not
conform with the legal agreement reached with the
joined by Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Andrew B.
Willison, the chamber’s chief law enforcement
officer, who has been looking into the alleged
unauthorized removal of classified materials by the
came two days after Brennan briefed Feinstein and
Chambliss on Buckley’s conclusions and apologized to
them for the improper intrusion into the database,
CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said in a statement.
director . . . apologized to them for such actions
by CIA officers as described in the OIG (Office of
Inspector General) report,” he said.
will submit Buckley’s findings to an accountability
board chaired by retired Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh
of Indiana, who served on the Senate Intelligence
Committee, Boyd said.
will review the OIG report, conduct interviews as
needed, and provide the director with
recommendations that, depending on its findings,
could include potential disciplinary measures and/or
steps to address systemic issues,” Boyd said.
called Brennan’s apology and his decision to submit
Buckley’s findings to the accountability board
“positive first steps.”
report corrects the record and it is my
understanding that a declassified report will be
made available to the public shortly,” she said in a
investigation confirmed what I said on the Senate
floor in March _ CIA personnel inappropriately
searched Senate Intelligence Committee computers in
violation of an agreement we had reached, and I
believe in violation of the constitutional
separation of powers,” she said.
It was not
clear why Feinstein didn’t repeat her charges from
March that the agency also may have broken the law
and had sought to “thwart” her investigation into
the CIA’s use of waterboarding, which simulates
drowning, sleep deprivation and other harsh
interrogation methods _ tactics denounced by many
experts as torture.
findings clashed with denials by Brennan that he
issued only hours after Feinstein’s blistering
“As far as
the allegations of, you know, CIA hacking into, you
know, Senate computers, nothing could be further
from the truth. I mean, we wouldn’t do that. I mean,
that’s _ that’s just beyond the _ you know, the
scope of reason in terms of what we would do,” he
said in an appearance at the Council on Foreign
Press Secretary Josh Earnest issued a strong defense
of Brennan, crediting him with playing an
“instrumental role” in the administration’s fight
against terrorism, in launching Buckley’s
investigation and in looking for ways to prevent
such occurrences in the future.
asked at a news briefing whether there was a
credibility issue for Brennan, given his forceful
denial in March.
all,” he replied, adding that Brennan had suggested
the inspector general’s investigation in the first
place. And, he added, Brennan had taken the further
step of appointing the accountability board to
review the situation and the conduct of those
accused of acting improperly to “ensure that they
are properly held accountable for that conduct.”
conciliatory tone of the CIA announcement and
Feinstein’s statement sharply contrasted with the
unprecedented battle that erupted over the issue
between the spy agency and its congressional
overseers and appears to represent attempts to ease
what have been seriously icy relations.
Senate floor speech in March, Feinstein asserted
that the CIA may have violated the law and the
Constitution by monitoring her staff’s computers and
blocking access to documents that had been placed in
the protected database.
allegations and the separate CIA charge that the
committee staff removed classified documents from
the secret CIA facility in Northern Virginia without
authorization were referred to the Justice
Department for investigation.
department earlier this month announced that it had
found insufficient evidence on which to proceed with
criminal probes into either matter “at this time.”
Thursday, Justice Department officials declined
required the committee staff to use CIA computers in
the top-secret agency facility to review more than 6
million pages of classified reports, emails and
other documents related to the detention and
Brennan confronted Feinstein behind closed doors
over a committee request for top-secret material
that the CIA determined the panel staff already had
contended that her staff may have improperly
accessed the material, which comprised an internal
CIA review that Feinstein and other lawmakers
contend verified the panel’s main finding that the
agency’s use of the harsh interrogation methods
failed to produce much valuable intelligence.
speech, Feinstein asserted that her staff found the
material _ known as the Panetta review, after former
CIA Director Leon Panetta, who ordered it _ in the
protected database and that the CIA discovered the
staff had it by monitoring its computers in
violation of the user agreement.
inspector general’s summary, which was prepared for
the Senate and the House intelligence committees,
didn’t identify the CIA personnel who had accessed
the Senate’s protected database.
Furthermore, it said, the CIA crimes report to the
Justice Department alleging that panel staffers had
removed classified materials without permission was
grounded on inaccurate information. The report is
believed to have been sent by the CIA’s then acting
general counsel, Robert Eatinger, who was a legal
adviser to the interrogation program.
factual basis for the referral was not supported, as
the author of the referral had been provided
inaccurate information on which the letter was
based,” said the summary, noting that the Justice
Department decided not to pursue the issue.
that Brennan then halted an internal CIA inquiry
into the allegation, the agency’s Office of Security
“conducted a limited investigation” that included a
keyword search of emails that the committee staff
had sent over the CIA computer network established
for its work, the summary said.
Some of the
emails’ contents also were reviewed, it said.
information technology specialists “demonstrated a
lack of candor” in interviews with Buckley’s office,
it said, using a euphemism for lying.
committee’s full report, which is being reviewed at
the White House following a declassification process
at the CIA, found that the use of the harsh
interrogation techniques produced little valuable
intelligence, according to classified conclusions
obtained by McClatchy.
determined that the agency misled the Bush
administration, Congress and the public on the
interrogation program’s failure to produce much
valuable intelligence, according to the conclusions.
administration officials, including former Vice
President Dick Cheney, the CIA and those who oversaw
the program, which ran from 2001 until 2006, have
vigorously disputed those findings. They’ve also
insisted that the techniques were legal and didn’t
Anders, senior legislative counsel with the American
Civil Liberties Union, criticized the CIA
announcement, saying that “an apology isn’t enough.”
Justice Department must refer the (CIA) inspector
general’s report to a federal prosecutor for a full
investigation into any crimes by CIA personnel or
contractors,” said Anders.
Lesley Clark of the Washington Bureau contributed.
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