CIA Accused of Spying on Senate Overseers

The agency’s watchdog investigates whether agents spied on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The seal of the Central Intelligence Agency sits on the floor of the foyer at the CIA Headquarters, Langley, VA on March 3, 2005.
National Journal
Brendan Sasso
March 5, 2014, 9:30 a.m.

The Cent­ral In­tel­li­gence Agency is un­der in­vest­ig­a­tion for al­legedly spy­ing on the Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, pan­el Chair­wo­man Di­anne Fein­stein con­firmed Wed­nes­day.

The CIA is pro­hib­ited from spy­ing on Amer­ic­ans, and spy­ing on mem­bers of Con­gress and their staff would raise par­tic­u­lar con­cerns about the sep­ar­a­tion of powers. 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.

The CIA’s in­tern­al watch­dog, its in­spect­or gen­er­al, is re­view­ing wheth­er CIA agents hacked in­to the com­puters of Sen­ate staffers who were in­volved in pro­du­cing a re­port crit­ic­al of the agency’s now-de­funct de­ten­tion and in­ter­rog­a­tion pro­gram, The New York Times re­por­ted Wed­nes­day. Ac­cord­ing to Mc­Clatchy, the in­spect­or gen­er­al’s of­fice has asked the Justice De­part­ment to in­vest­ig­ate the case. 

The com­mit­tee worked on the 6,300-page in­ter­rog­a­tion re­port for years. The re­port, which re­mains clas­si­fied, con­cluded that bru­tal in­ter­rog­a­tion tech­niques pro­duced little valu­able in­tel­li­gence. Last June, the CIA re­spon­ded with its own 122-page re­port chal­len­ging par­tic­u­lar facts and the con­clu­sion of the Sen­ate’s doc­u­ment. End­ing the in­ter­rog­a­tion pro­gram was one of Pres­id­ent Obama’s first acts in of­fice.

Sen. Mark Ud­all, a Col­or­ado Demo­crat and mem­ber of the In­tel­li­gence pan­el, wrote a let­ter to Obama on Tues­day, ur­ging him to sup­port de­clas­si­fic­a­tion of the full re­port. Ud­all re­ferred vaguely to the CIA’s al­leged spy­ing on the com­mit­tee.

“As you are aware, the CIA has re­cently taken un­pre­ced­en­ted ac­tion against the Com­mit­tee in re­la­tion to the in­tern­al CIA re­view, and I find these ac­tions to be in­cred­ibly troub­ling for the Com­mit­tee’s over­sight re­spons­ib­il­it­ies and for our demo­cracy,” Ud­all wrote. “It is es­sen­tial that the Com­mit­tee be able to do its over­sight work — con­sist­ent with our con­sti­tu­tion­al prin­ciple of the sep­ar­a­tion of powers — without the CIA pos­ing im­ped­i­ments or obstacles as it is today.”

In Decem­ber, Ud­all said the com­mit­tee ob­tained in­tern­al CIA doc­u­ments that were “con­sist­ent with the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee’s re­port” and con­tra­dicted the CIA’s of­fi­cial re­sponse.

Ac­cord­ing to The New York Times, the CIA be­lieved that the com­mit­tee may have some­how gained un­au­thor­ized ac­cess to the agency doc­u­ments. The agency began its al­leged spy­ing of the com­mit­tee to in­vest­ig­ate how the doc­u­ments were ob­tained, ac­cord­ing to the news re­port.

A CIA spokes­man de­clined to com­ment on the in­spect­or gen­er­al’s probe. Caitlin Hay­den, a White House spoke­wo­man, also de­clined to com­ment on the in­vest­ig­a­tion or when the pres­id­ent learned of pos­sible spy­ing on the Sen­ate com­mit­tee.

But she said the White House be­lieves that the “find­ings and con­clu­sion” of the in­ter­rog­a­tion re­port should be de­clas­si­fied, with ap­pro­pri­ate re­dac­tions.

Chris­toph­er An­ders, a le­gis­lat­ive coun­sel for the Amer­ic­an Civil Liber­ties Uni­on, said that if the CIA in fact spied on the Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, it would be an “out­rageous vi­ol­a­tion of sep­ar­a­tion of powers.”

“CIA sur­veil­lance of Con­gress would be an­oth­er sign that the in­tel­li­gence com­munity has come to be­lieve that they are above the law, and should get only de­fer­ence from the oth­er branches of gov­ern­ment, not the mean­ing­ful over­sight that’s re­quired by the Con­sti­tu­tion,” An­ders said.

“Checks and bal­ances, es­pe­cially for agen­cies like the CIA and NSA that have many secret op­er­a­tions, are es­sen­tial for demo­crat­ic gov­ern­ment. At the very least, these re­ports should spur the com­mit­tee to vote quickly for the de­clas­si­fic­a­tion and re­lease of its full re­port in­to the CIA’s tor­ture pro­gram so the Amer­ic­an people can see what it is that the CIA is so eager to hide.”

The ex­ist­ence of the in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to CIA spy­ing ap­pears to ex­plain a ques­tion that Demo­crat­ic Sen. Ron Wyden asked CIA Dir­ect­or John Bren­nan in Janu­ary. Wyden pressed Bren­nan on wheth­er a fed­er­al law that bans un­au­thor­ized hack­ing in­to com­puters ap­plies to the CIA. At the time, Bren­nan said he was un­sure and would have to get back to the sen­at­or in writ­ing.

On Wed­nes­day, after news broke of the al­leged CIA spy­ing, Wyden re­leased Bren­nan’s let­ter re­spond­ing to the ques­tion. Bren­nan said that the anti-hack­ing law does in fact ap­ply to the CIA, but he noted that the law ex­pressly “does not pro­hib­it any law­ful au­thor­ized in­vest­ig­at­ive, pro­tect­ive, or in­tel­li­gence activ­ity.”

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
When It Comes to Mining Asteroids, Technology Is Only the First Problem
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Obama Reflects on His Economic Record
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."

Source:
PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

Source:
CITIZENS UNITED PT. 2?
Movie Based on ‘Clinton Cash’ to Debut at Cannes
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."

Source:
×