Harry Reid is asking the Senate’s top law-enforcement official to investigate how documents on a powerful committee’s computers were obtained, marking the latest battle cry in the ongoing standoff between the CIA and Congress.
The Senate majority leader, in separate letters to Attorney General Eric Holder and CIA Director John Brennan, said he has instructed the Senate sergeant-at-arms to carry out a “forensic examination” of a computer network that had been meant for exclusive use by the Senate Intelligence Community in order to determine how the CIA’s internal “Panetta review” detailing Bush-era foreign interrogation practices got there.
“The CIA’s decision to access the resources and work produce of the legislative branch without permission is absolutely indefensible, regardless of the context,” Reid wrote in his letter to Holder.
The Nevada Democrat also summarily dismissed any notion that Senate staffers hacked the CIA’s computers to illicitly obtain the review. The CIA, in referring the issue to the Justice Department, has claimed the committee illegally confiscated agency documents, though it has not explictedly suggested any hacking took place.
“The allegation that Senate committee staff who have no technical training somehow hacked into the CIA’s highly secure classified networks is so absurd as to be comical,” he said, adding that such accusations undermine the credibility of Brennan’s claim that the agency has never attempted to “thwart” the committee’s investigation.
Reid’s letter is a follow-up to a 40-minute speech Sen. Dianne Feinstein delivered from the chamber floor earlier this week where she accused the CIA of possibly violating the Constitution. Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Community, said the intelligence community improperly accessed computer files that committee staffers were examining as part of a review of the now-defunct Bush-era foreign interrogation programs.
Such surreptitious access of the panel’s files breached an agreement made with former CIA Director Leon Panetta that the CIA would refrain from monitoring the review process, Feinstein said.
“The CIA has not only interfered with the lawful congressional oversight of its activities, but has also seemingly attempted to intimidate its overseers by subjecting them to criminal investigation,” Reid wrote. “These developments strike at the heart of the constitutional separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches.”
Feinstein has said that the Panetta review was given to her committee on a secure CIA network as part of millions of files handed over for its investigation into waterboarding and other interrogation tactics used during George W. Bush’s presidency. Her committee has written a 6,300-page report on the programs that remains classified.
Reid’s letter to Brennan asks for cooperation to allow the sergeant-at-arms’ staff to proceed with a complete investigation in a “timely and effective manner.”
The CIA said it is “committed to resolving” the ongoing hacking dispute and strengthening its relations overall with Congress.
“The CIA believes in the necessity of effective, strong and bipartisan congressional oversight,” an agency spokesman told National Journal. “We are a far better organization because of congressional oversight, and we will do whatever we can to be responsive to the elected representatives of the American people.”
What We're Following See More »
Special counsel Robert Mueller "is now demanding documents from the department overseeing his investigation." A source tells ABC News that "Mueller's investigators are keen to obtain emails related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the earlier decision of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the entire matter."
"President Donald Trump would not insist on including repeal of an Obama-era health insurance mandate in a bill intended to enact the biggest overhaul of the tax code since the 1980s, a senior White House aide said on Sunday. The version of tax legislation put forward by Senate Republican leaders would remove a requirement in former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law that taxes Americans who decline to buy health insurance."
"Members of Congress with histories of mistreating women should be extremely nervous. Major outlets, including CNN, are dedicating substantial newsroom resources to investigating sexual harassment allegations against numerous lawmakers. A Republican source told me he's gotten calls from well-known D.C. reporters who are gathering stories about sleazy members."
"Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer who wrote the explosive dossier alleging ties between Donald Trump and Russia," says in a new book by The Guardian's Luke Harding that "Trump's land and hotel deals with Russians needed to be examined. ... Steele did not go into further detail, Harding said, but seemed to be referring to a 2008 home sale to the Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev. Richard Dearlove, who headed the UK foreign-intelligence unit MI6 between 1999 and 2004, said in April that Trump borrowed money from Russia for his business during the 2008 financial crisis."