Sen. Feinstein: CIA Hacked Congress and Possibly ‘Violated’ Constitution

The Senate Intelligence Committee leader accused the CIA of interfering with its investigation into the agency’s old interrogation programs.

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 26: Committee chairman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (C), ranking member Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) (R) and Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV) (L) listen during a hearing before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee September 26,2 103 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The hearing was focused on the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Legislation.
National Journal
Dustin Volz
March 11, 2014, 6:11 a.m.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4807) }}

The power­ful chair­wo­man of the Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee charged the CIA on Tues­day morn­ing with cov­ertly re­mov­ing key doc­u­ments from com­puters used by her pan­el’s staff to in­vest­ig­ate the gov­ern­ment’s in­ter­rog­a­tion prac­tices.

In an im­pas­sioned 40-minute speech on the Sen­ate floor ac­cus­ing the in­tel­li­gence agency of pos­sibly vi­ol­at­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion, Di­anne Fein­stein la­cer­ated the CIA for ac­cess­ing in Janu­ary the com­puter files used by com­mit­tee staffers to re­view the CIA’s now-de­funct in­ter­rog­a­tion pro­grams. By do­ing so, the in­tel­li­gence agency would have vi­ol­ated a clear agree­ment that it had made with Fein­stein’s com­mit­tee that it would re­frain from mon­it­or­ing its re­view.

“I have grave con­cerns that the CIA search may well have vi­ol­ated the sep­ar­a­tion-of-powers prin­ciples em­bod­ied in the United States Con­sti­tu­tion, in­clud­ing the speech and de­bate clause,” the Cali­for­nia Demo­crat said. “It may have un­der­mined the con­sti­tu­tion­al frame­work es­sen­tial to ef­fect­ive con­gres­sion­al over­sight of in­tel­li­gence activ­it­ies or any oth­er gov­ern­ment func­tion.”

John Bren­nan, the CIA’s cur­rent dir­ect­or, flatly denied Fein­stein’s ac­cus­a­tions, telling NBC News re­port­er An­drea Mitchell later in the day that “the al­leg­a­tions of the CIA hack­ing in­to com­puters … [are] bey­ond the scope of reas­on.”

And Sen. Saxby Cham­b­liss, the com­mit­tee’s top Re­pub­lic­an, said he did not agree with Fein­stein’s con­clu­sions.

“We have some dis­agree­ments as to what the find­ings are,” Cham­b­liss said. “Right now we don’t know what the facts are,” he said, adding that the com­mit­tee will at­tempt to re­solve the is­sue in­tern­ally.

Fein­stein, who is fre­quently re­garded as one of the in­tel­li­gence com­munity’s most res­ol­ute de­fend­ers, said she has also asked the CIA for an apo­logy and re­cog­ni­tion of wrong­do­ing. So far, however, she said she has re­ceived neither — and she stopped just short of say­ing that in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials lied to her pan­el.

“How can its of­fi­cial re­sponse to our study stand fac­tu­ally in con­flict with its own in­tern­al re­view?” Fein­stein asked.

Fein­stein’s pre­pared re­marks, which she said were de­livered to cor­rect mis­in­form­a­tion cir­cu­lat­ing in the press, ar­rive a week after she con­firmed the CIA was un­der in­vest­ig­a­tion by the Justice De­part­ment for po­ten­tially spy­ing on her com­mit­tee. The in­tel­li­gence agency is barred from spy­ing on Amer­ic­ans, and sur­repti­tious tap­ping in­to com­puters used by mem­bers of Con­gress and its staff presents con­cerns about the sep­ar­a­tion of powers en­shrined in the Con­sti­tu­tion.

To­ward the end of her lengthy speech, Fein­stein enu­mer­ated the laws she be­lieves the CIA may have broken: the Fourth Amend­ment, which pro­tects from un­reas­on­able search and seizure; the Com­puter Fraud and Ab­use Act; and Ex­ec­ut­ive Or­der 12333, which bars do­mest­ic sur­veil­lance.

Im­me­di­ately after Fein­stein’s speech, Sen­ate Pres­id­ent Pro Tem­pore Patrick Leahy told the cham­ber, “I’ve heard thou­sands of speeches on this floor. I can­not think of any speech by any mem­ber of either party as im­port­ant as the one the sen­at­or from Cali­for­nia just gave.” Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id later piled on: “There’s no one that has more cour­age and con­vic­tion than Di­anne Fein­stein.”

Con­gress cre­ated the House and Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence com­mit­tees in the 1970s to over­see the CIA, the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency, and oth­er spy agen­cies after un­cov­er­ing a string of spy­ing ab­uses.

Elahe Izadi contributed to this article.
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