The CIA appears poised to join the NSA in government surveillance agency hot water after a new report alleges the agency spied on the computers of U.S. Senate staffers responsible for drafting a report about its post-9/11 extreme interrogation methods.
McClatchy reports the CIA dug through the computers of Senate Intelligence Committee staffers to investigate how the committee obtained information from the agency’s internal review of the detention and torture program. Both the inspector general of the CIA and the Department of Justice have opened investigations into potential criminal activity.
The 6,300 page, four year $40 million report examines agency practices first brought to light during the George W. Bush administration like waterboarding suspected terrorists during interrogations in secret overseas prisons. The classified report infers CIA purposefully misrepresented details of the programs to both the Bush administration and Congress at the time they were being employed.
Monitoring Senate computers will likely be viewed as another significant breach of Congress’s oversight of the CIA by the agency.
“As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the Committee in relation to the internal CIA review, and I find those actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee’s oversight responsibilities and for our democracy,” intelligence committee member and Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall wrote in a letter to President Obama on Tuesday.
“I am deeply dismayed that some members of the Senate have decided to make spurious allegations about CIA actions that are wholly unsupported by the facts,” CIA Director John Brennan said in a statement Wednesday. “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 New York Times report asserts the agency began looking into Senate computers after Sen. Udall said in December that the committee was aware of an internal CIA report containing findings consistent with the Senate’s. Director Brennan had initially refuted the committee’s findings in a June 2013 rebuttal.
Intelligence committee member and Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden asked Brennan during a January hearing whether or not the agency was subject to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act – an anti-hacking law.
Brennan replied he would have to answer the senator’s question later after looking into “what the act actually calls for and it’s applicability to CIA’s authorities.”