More Details Revealed Concerning CIA's Spying On Senate Intelligence Committee

from the oh-and-back-to-those-questions dept

Earlier today we covered reports of the CIA spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee as it tried to prevent the committee from releasing a supposedly “devastating” report about the CIA’s torture program. That was based on a NY Times article. It appears that reporters at McClatchy were digging into the same issue and rushed out their version, which includes more details, including the fact that the CIA’s inspector general has already asked the DOJ to investigate the situation.

Also, the McClatchy report ties this spying by the CIA back to some questions that Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall had asked John Brennan back in January. We had written about it at the time, noting that the two were clearly hinting at something having to do with the CIA spying on Americans, but it wasn’t entirely clear where the questions were coming from. Reading the questions now, in light of the report of what the CIA was doing, makes the story a hell of a lot clearer. Here was Wyden’s exchange with Brennan, concerning whether or not the CFAA — the federal “anti-hacking” law — applies to the CIA itself:

Wyden: Does the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act apply to the CIA?

Brennan: I would have to look into what that act actually calls for and its applicability to CIA’s authorities. I’ll be happy to get back to you, Senator, on that.

Wyden: How long would that take?

Brennan: I’ll be happy to get back to you as soon as possible but certainly no longer than–

Wyden: A week?

Brennan: I think that I could get that back to you, yes.

We had thought it was a slightly odd question, since the CFAA clearly states that it “does not prohibit any lawfully authorized investigative, protective, or intelligence activity of a law enforcement agency of the United States, a State, or a political subdivision of a State, or of an intelligence agency of the United States.” But, that’s because we figured that Wyden must be talking about how the CIA was running an “authorized investigation.” However, if it was illegally examining the Senate Intelligence Committee staffers’ computers, that clause almost certainly doesn’t apply — meaning that the CFAA certainly could now apply. We’ve put a request to find out if Brennan ever did get back to Senator Wyden. Update: Brennan did reply and admitted that, yes, the CFAA does apply to the CIA, which may explain why the DOJ is now involved in this issue….

Then there’s Senator Mark Udall’s question to Brennan, which we assumed was connected to Wyden’s. Again, in light of the new revelations, that seems likely to be the case as well:

Udall: I want to be able to reassure the American people that the CIA and the Director understand the limits of its authorities. We are all aware of Executive Order 12333. That order prohibits the CIA from engaging in domestic spying and searches of US citizens within our borders. Can you assure the Committee that the CIA does not conduct such domestic spying and searches?

Brennan: I can assure the Committee that the CIA follows the letter and spirit of the law in terms of what CIA’s authorities are, in terms of its responsibilities to collect intelligence that will keep this country safe. Yes Senator, I do.

I guess he meant “except and until we’re scared shitless that you’re going to expose how ridiculous, useless and illegal our torture program was.”

The McClatchy report also details how the CIA accomplished this. Apparently, it had insisted that the Intelligence Committee staffers who were investigating the torture program had to work on computers at the CIA’s headquarters, to make sure that classified information didn’t leave the building:

The committee determined earlier this year that the CIA monitored computers – in possible violation of an agreement against doing so – that the agency had provided to intelligence committee staff in a secure room at CIA headquarters that the agency insisted they use to review millions of pages of top-secret reports, cables and other documents, according to people with knowledge.

I have to imagine that if you’re folks at the CIA, knowing that the computers were in the same damn building, it was just too damn tempting not to go spy on them. After all, the situation was that the CIA had this internal study, which is apparently also fairly devastating and (worse) which showed that the CIA lied to the Intelligence Committee. Furthermore, it appears that the CIA had worked hard to make sure the Intelligence Committee never saw that study. Then, suddenly, in December, Senator Udall claims to have that study — and the CIA has no idea how he got it. Given who they are, it must have been just way too tempting not to then spy on those computers in their own building. Of course, that further highlights a point we’ve been making for quite some time. Spies are human too — and the temptations to abuse their power will always be there. The idea that they’re immune to abuse, as put forth by some (including Senate Intelligence boss Dianne Feinstein) is just laughable. And this story just further supports that claim.

Filed Under: , , , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “More Details Revealed Concerning CIA's Spying On Senate Intelligence Committee”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
silverscarcat (profile) says:


Even if they get convicted of violating the CFAA, any bets that the most punishment they’ll have to face is just a suspended sentence that makes them stay at home?

I mean, it’s not like they did something like download lots and lots of files at once that got a university mad at them and then the University helped an Attorney General, who should have been fired already, mercilessly prosecute the CIA members until some of them commit suicide.

Nope, they just spied on Congress, a far more minor crime.

So, my question is…

Are the leaders of the CIA, FBI and NSA possessed by J. Edgar Hoover’s ghost or something?

ysth (profile) says:

"except and until we're scared shitless that you're going to expose how ridiculous, useless and illegal our torture program was."

I disagree on your interpretation of:

“I can assure the Committee that the CIA follows the letter and spirit of the law in terms of what CIA?s authorities are”

It seems clear to me that “in terms of what CIA’s authorities are” means “the preceding statement only addresses things the CIA is legally authorized to do”. In short, the statement literally means “The CIA follows the law when it follows the law” and does not say anything about when they don’t.

edpo says:


So either the CIA (i) violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by conducting surveillance on the computers used by Senate Intelligence Committee staffers preparing the report into the CIA?s secret detention and interrogation program, or (ii) didn’t violate the CFAA because the investigation that was “authorized” (see 18 U.S. Code ? 1030). Those are the only two outcomes technically possible, which is a huge problem for the Executive Branch.

Eldakka (profile) says:


Those are the only two outcomes technically possible, which is a huge problem for the Executive Branch.

I agree.

I’d assume that an investigation of this level would require authorization from the Attorney General if not the President himself.

So either:
1) The AG or the President authorized an investigation into staffers of the senate intelligence committee – bad juju for the the authorizers, possibly political suicide; or,
2) The CIA illegally spied on the senate intelligence committee hence breaking MANY laws (CFAA plus other laws regarding the legal limits of the CIA etc).

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: CFAA

2) The CIA illegally spied on the senate intelligence committee hence breaking MANY laws (CFAA plus other laws regarding the legal limits of the CIA etc).

Unfortunately, that only really matters if someone in the government is willing to charge and prosecute them for it, and going after the gorram CIA… yeah, it would have to be someone relatively new, who’s looking to make a name for themselves, as you can bet none of those that have been around for a while, and quite enjoy their cushy jobs would touch the case.

And then of course finding a judge willing and able to face down the CIA… it’ll be an uphill battle, though I hope the system works for once, as otherwise things will just get even worse, as a pass here means any ‘limits’ the law gives them can be completely ignored should they feel like it, because it’ll tell them loud and clear that no matter what they do, even if they get caught doing it, they know they’ll get away with it unscathed.

archangels tutu luther king says:

Re: Re: Re: CFAA

Wake up idiot
They brake the law as they wish
The fuckwit s do what they want to.
They can put an innocent person on the sex offenders register
They can shoot and torture someone for no reason
Wake up!!@@
I was the first person to know the bildenbergs to cia were changing their symbol to an octopus reaching around the world
You know what I said to them
I told the fucking cia to go fuck themselves with a limp octopus tenticle.
I’m not dead.

My fucking father I s darpa
Cia & a whole pile of other shit.
They won’t touch me
I have my own immunity
my boyfriend is a dammed assassin. ..

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...