War & Peace
CIA Clears Itself of Spying on Senate
A Central Intelligence Agency “accountability board” has cleared five agency employees of any wrongdoing when they spied on Senate Intelligence Committee computers during the panel’s investigation of CIA torture.
The board concluded that the five workers—two attorneys and three IT personnel—”acted reasonably under the complex and unprecedented circumstances” and did not deserve to be punished for their actions.
Its report stated that “while [the spying] was clearly inappropriate, it was a mistake that did not reflect malfeasance, bad faith, or the intention to gain improper access to [Intelligence Committee] confidential, deliberative material.”
A CIA Inspector General’s report, which was completed in July but only released on Wednesday, concluded that the five employees had acted wrongfully. The “accountability board” determined that it was the IG, in fact, which had acted improperly.
The IG’s report also revealed that the White House was aware that agency operatives were accessing Senate computers during the Intelligence Committee’s torture probe. It stated that CIA Director John Brennan consulted the White House prior to directing agents to infiltrate a secure computer drive containing classified files related to the Senate investigation. Brennan ordered operatives to use “any means necessary” to determine how sensitive internal documents found their way into Senate investigators’ hands.
Former Sen. Even Bayh (D-IN), who led the review, claimed CIA personnel did not tamper with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s work and were instead “investigating a potential security breach in the highly classified shared computer network.”
Former Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who in July 2014 received an apology from Brennan for his agency’s improper snooping, said she was “disappointed that no one from the CIA will be held accountable.”
“The decision was made to search committee computers, and someone should be found responsible for those actions,” Feinstein said in a statement which noted Brennan’s July apology.
“I continue to believe CIA’s actions constituted a violation of the constitutional separation of powers and unfortunately led to the CIA’s referral of unsubstantiated criminal charges to the Justice Department against committee staff,” added Feinstein.
A summary of the 6,000-page Senate report on CIA torture, previously classified, was released last month over objections from Republicans and the Obama administration. It states that dozens of innocent individuals were wrongfully detained due to mistaken identity and faulty intelligence, that these and other detainees were subjected to horrific and even deadly torture and abuse, and that the brutality and scope of the program were hidden from the Justice Department and even high-ranking members of the Bush administration, including the president himself.
CIA officials and leading Bush administration figures, including former vice president Dick Cheney, refuted the Senate report’s findings, calling the investigation biased and politically motivated. Cheney said the report was “full of crap.”