Senators Outraged CIA May Have Spied on Intelligence Committee

The allegations go to ‘the heart of the separation of powers,’ Judiciary Committee chairman says.

Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) questions witnesses during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on 'Conflicts between State and Federal Marijuana Laws,' on Capitol Hill, September 10, 2013 in Washington, DC. The hearing focused on conflicts between state and federal marijuana laws.
National Journal
Brendan Sasso
Add to Briefcase
Brendan Sasso
March 5, 2014, 1:07 p.m.

Two top Demo­crat­ic sen­at­ors ex­pressed alarm Wed­nes­day over re­ports that the Cent­ral In­tel­li­gence Agency spied on the Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee.

The CIA’s in­tern­al watch­dog, its in­spect­or gen­er­al, is re­view­ing wheth­er CIA agents hacked in­to the com­puters of Sen­ate staffers who worked on a re­port crit­ic­al of the agency’s in­ter­rog­a­tion pro­gram, The New York Times re­por­ted. Ac­cord­ing to Mc­Clatchy, the in­spect­or gen­er­al’s of­fice has asked the Justice De­part­ment to in­vest­ig­ate the case.

Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man Carl Lev­in said CIA spy­ing on a Sen­ate com­puter net­work “would be an ex­tremely ser­i­ous mat­ter.”

“Such activ­ity, if it oc­curred as al­leged, would im­pede Con­gress’s abil­ity to carry out its con­sti­tu­tion­al over­sight re­spons­ib­il­it­ies and could vi­ol­ate fed­er­al law,” he said in a state­ment.

Sen­ate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Patrick Leahy said he is “deeply con­cerned” about the al­leg­a­tions.

“These al­leg­a­tions have ser­i­ous con­sti­tu­tion­al im­plic­a­tions that go to the heart of the sep­ar­a­tion of powers, and I in­tend to mon­it­or the situ­ation closely,” Leahy said.

The CIA is pro­hib­ited from spy­ing on Amer­ic­ans. 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 slew of spy­ing ab­uses.

CIA Dir­ect­or John Bren­nan said Wed­nes­day that he was “deeply dis­mayed that some mem­bers of the Sen­ate have de­cided to make spuri­ous al­leg­a­tions about CIA ac­tions that are wholly un­sup­por­ted by the facts.”

“I am very con­fid­ent that the ap­pro­pri­ate au­thor­it­ies re­view­ing this mat­ter will de­term­ine where wrong­do­ing, if any, oc­curred in either the Ex­ec­ut­ive Branch or Le­gis­lat­ive Branch. Un­til then, I would en­cour­age oth­ers to re­frain from out­bursts that do a dis­ser­vice to the im­port­ant re­la­tion­ship that needs to be main­tained between in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials and con­gres­sion­al over­seers.”

A spokes­man for In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­wo­man Di­anne Fein­stein de­clined to com­ment bey­ond con­firm­ing the in­spect­or gen­er­al’s probe.

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