Hey Reuters: You're Wrong. John Brennan Did Not Deny Feinstein's Claims, He Admitted To Them

from the journalism! dept

Earlier this week, we pointed out that many in the press had fallen for CIA Director John Brennan’s “non-denial denial” over Senator Dianne Feinstein’s accusations that the CIA had improperly searched the network over Senate Intelligence Committee staffers who were researching the CIA’s torture program. Even more incredibly, later that same day, Brennan released the letter he had written Feinstein back in January, which actually confirms basically everything she said.

So why is it that reporters at places like Reuters are still claiming the following:

John Brennan, who has been CIA director for a year, quickly denied Feinstein’s accusation on Tuesday.

He did no such thing. He denied that the CIA had “hacked” the Senate staffers, which is not what Feinstein had said at all. In fact, she explicitly stated that the CIA did not hack anyone. Instead, she said that they had improperly searched the computers, which is exactly what Brennan admitted to her in his letter, which he then released to the public.

Here’s the crux of Feinstein’s accusation:

Shortly thereafter, on January 15, 2014, CIA Director Brennan requested an emergency meeting to inform me and Vice Chairman Chambliss that without prior notification or approval, CIA personnel had conducted a “search”—that was John Brennan’s word—of the committee computers at the offsite facility. This search involved not only a search of documents provided to the committee by the CIA, but also a search of the “stand alone” and “walled-off” committee network drive containing the committee’s own internal work product and communications.

According to Brennan, the computer search was conducted in response to indications that some members of the committee staff might already have had access to the Internal Panetta Review. The CIA did not ask the committee or its staff if the committee had access to the Internal Review, or how we obtained it.

Instead, the CIA just went and searched the committee’s computers. The CIA has still not asked the committee any questions about how the committee acquired the Panetta Review. In place of asking any questions, the CIA’s unauthorized search of the committee computers was followed by an allegation—which we have now seen repeated anonymously in the press—that the committee staff had somehow obtained the document through unauthorized or criminal means, perhaps to include hacking into the CIA’s computer network.

And here’s Brennan admitting exactly that:

Because we were concerned that there may be a breach or vulnerability in the system for housing highly classified documents, CIA conducted a limited review to determine whether these files were located on the SSCI side of the CIA network and reviewed audit data to determine whether anyone had accessed the files, which would have been unauthorized.

Is it really too much to ask the press to accurately report what Feinstein and Brennan said?

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Comments on “Hey Reuters: You're Wrong. John Brennan Did Not Deny Feinstein's Claims, He Admitted To Them”

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Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Brennan doesn’t seem to say anything about searching any computers other than the CIA’s own. He only talks about checking the access logs on their own systems in that quote.

No, he admits it. He says: “CIA conducted a limited review to determine whether these files were located on the SSCI side of the CIA network and reviewed audit data to determine whether anyone had accessed the files, which would have been unauthorized.”

If you’ve been following along, the CIA required the Senate staffers to work from a CIA office, but promised them a private network. SSCI is “Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.” The “SSCI side” of the network is the Senate staffers’ computers, which the CIA had previously insisted was entirely private from the CIA.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

From what it sounds like, they set up a shared drive on their network that the Staffers could access and store their work without it leaving the CIA network. If they simply checked to see what was on the shared network and the access logs for that drive to see what had been put there and/or had been copied from there, that wouldn’t exactly be scanning their computers. It still doesn’t change the fact that they had every right to all evidence related to the issue including the document in question though.

Anonymous Coward says:

If you are just now coming to the conclusion that you need to ask news sources to report accurately then you’ve been asleep at the wheel for the longest.

Ever since major news sources have been merged or purchased by major corporations real news has changed. News sources rarely ever now do real investigative reporting, which is what in the past kept politicians honest or at least with the appearance of honest. Politicians haven’t really bothered with the facade of doing so in a long time, now news sources are getting the same idea that it really isn’t necessary any longer.

If you don’t like this news source’s take on it, you can always go to another and get pretty much the same thing fed with a different bias built in.

DB (profile) says:

It always surprises me when ‘real news organizations’ take press releases and public statements at face value, and repeat them uncritically.

Meanwhile news spoofs such as the Daily Show dig back to previous statements, or the constitution, that directly contradicts what was just said. Why can they do a better job than “real” reporters?

The shocking thing about this is that CIA is saying torture was OK, and that the Senate doesn’t have oversight or investigative powers over the agency. Somehow saying “it’s classified” means that the constitution doesn’t apply.

Anonymous Coward says:

Here’s what I don’t get. What the hell did Feinstein and her staff think was going to happen when she agreed to have all their work stored at the CIA in the first place? Why the hell would they want to keep it there if they weren’t going to access it to see what was in there? There is absolutely no reason for the CIA to request that if they weren’t going to try to at least monitor it. Her response should have been…

“Look we are the one’s that are in charge of investigating you. We will make the rules. We have our own security protocols in place, thank you very much. You just give us what we need and stay out of our way so we don’t have to hit you with obstruction charges on top of everything else.”

GEMont (profile) says:

The Truth-Free Press

“Is it really too much to ask the press to accurately report what Feinstein and Brennan said?”

Well, no.
Its not too much to ask.
Its just too late to ask.

You see, the White House already “asked” them to lie and they have already agreed to lie and then they went ahead and lied as agreed, and so now, they can’t really tell the truth, because that would make people doubt other things they were “asked” to lie about by the White House… and well… that would just be bad.

You have to look at this from the White House perspective.

Sure he admitted to exactly what he was accused of, but if the White House had not “asked” the press to pretend he didn’t actually admit it, then the public would have realized what Tech Dirt readers realized. And that too would be just bad.

Maybe if you’d have asked them first, they might have considered the truth as a valid use for journalism for once.

Considering how often the Press has considered the truth as a valid use for journalism in the past dozen years or so however, I somehow doubt it.

You might have had to threaten their licenses with renewal penalties or something first…. oh yeah, I forgot. Only the White House can do that.

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