The CIA during the Obama administration read congressional emails discussing whistleblower complaints about activities within the intelligence community, according to newly declassified documents provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
The documents show that on March 28, 2014, I. Charles McCullough III, who then served as the Intelligence Community’s watchdog, wrote to Congress that CIA’s security division had read emails exchanged between congressional staffers and the top official in the Intelligence Community Inspector General office that protects whistleblowers.
CIA security said that the emails were picked up during a “routine counterintelligence (CI) monitoring of Government security systems,” according to McCullough, who provided the details in documents known as Congressional Notifications, or CNs.
“Most of these emails concerned pending and developing whistleblower complaints,” wrote McCullough.
McCullough also said that CIA security provided reports of the monitoring to offices where some of the whistleblowers worked.
McCullough said that though the routine monitoring was legal, he was concerned “about the potential compromise to whistleblower confidentiality and the consequent ‘chilling effect’ that the present CI monitoring system might have on Intelligence Community whistleblowing.”
The release of the documents brings to an end a four-year fight between Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, and the intelligence community. (RELATED: Grassley Defends Whistleblower Law)
Grassley wrote to former CIA Director John Brennan and former National Intelligence Director James Clapper on April 14, 2014 seeking the declassification of the two CNs. Neither Obama-appointed official accommodated the request.
Grassley accused Brennan and Clapper of “bureaucratic foot-dragging” for refusing to declassify the documents, in a statement Thursday.
“The fact that the CIA under the Obama administration was reading Congressional staff’s emails about intelligence community whistleblowers raises serious policy concerns as well as potential Constitutional separation-of-powers issues that must be discussed publicly,” said Grassley, who is well-known in Washington as an advocate for government whistleblowers.
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