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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"American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers." The conversations centered around Paul Manafort, who was campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and then a close campaign surrogate. Both men have been tied heavily with Russia and Flynn is currently at the center of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."