After CIA Angrily Denied Spying On Senate, CIA Admits It Did And Apologizes

from the incredible dept

Here’s a surprise. An internal investigation by the CIA has determined — just as Senator Dianne Feinstein charged — that the CIA illegally hacked into the network of Senate Intelligence Committee staffers in order to spy on what they were doing with regards to a report on the CIA’s torture program. They did this despite an earlier instance of a similar problem after which the CIA promised it would not touch the Senate Intelligence Committee network any more.

Of course, as you may recall after Feinstein angrily denounced the CIA’s actions, and explained them in detail, CIA director John Brennan angrily denied it — though as we noted, his angry denial really confirmed nearly all of the pertinent details. Still, he specifically stated:

“When the facts come out on this, I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong.”

He also told reporters:

“Let me assure you the CIA was in no way spying on [the Senate Intelligence Committee] or the Senate.”

Things got even more acrimonious when both sides reported each other to the Justice Department for possible criminal investigation. The CIA insisted that the Senate staffers mishandled classified information, while the Senate claimed that the CIA illegally hacked into their network. Once again, the Senate side of the story made the most sense — because it had happened before. As you may recall from Feinstein’s original explanation:

After a series of meetings, I learned that on two occasions, CIA personnel electronically removed committee access to CIA documents after providing them to the committee. This included roughly 870 documents or pages of documents that were removed in February 2010, and secondly roughly another 50 were removed in mid-May 2010.

This was done without the knowledge or approval of committee members or staff, and in violation of our written agreements. Further, this type of behavior would not have been possible had the CIA allowed the committee to conduct the review of documents here in the Senate. In short, this was the exact sort of CIA interference in our investigation that we sought to avoid at the outset.

After that, the CIA agreed that it would not touch the network in any way. But it did. As Brennan himself explained:

CIA maintains a log of all materials provided to the Committee through established protocols, and these documents do not appear in that log, nor were they found in an audit of CIA’s side of the system for all materials provided to SSCI through established protocols. 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.

Either way, the DOJ just recently decided to pursue neither claim, but the CIA’s moves today more or less admit guilt:

Findings of the investigation by the CIA Inspector General?s Office ?include a judgment that some CIA employees acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding reached between SSCI (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) and the CIA in 2009,? CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said in a statement.

The statement represented an admission to charges by the panel?s chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that the CIA intruded into the computers her staff used to compile the soon-to-be released report on the agency?s use of harsh interrogation methods on suspected terrorists in secret overseas prisons during the Bush administration.

CIA Director John Brennan briefed Feinstein and the committee?s vice chairman, Saxby Chambliss, R-GA, on the CIA inspector general?s findings and apologized to them during a meeting on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Boyd said.

?The director . . . apologized to them for such actions by CIA officers as described in the OIG (Office of Inspector General Report),? he said.

That’s a pretty different tune than “When the facts come out” all those people “will be proved wrong,” huh?

What’s incredible about this is that it comes very soon before the redacted version of the CIA torture report that the staffers were working on is expected to be released. Brennan has been the leading voice criticizing the report, but his credibility is sliding increasingly downhill. The news today shows that he appears to have directly lied to the press and the Senate concerning this situation. The more cynical among you will claim that you just assume he’s always lying, but that’s unfair. For whatever it’s worth, the intelligence community is very good about not technically lying, but just misleading people. Here, he was strongly making claims that were clearly just flat out not true.

Others in the Senate are calling for a thorough investigation of Brennan, and it’s entirely possible this could result in Brennan being forced to resign. At this point, especially with the report coming out, it seems like the CIA could use a fresh start.

Either way, given that the CIA is now effectively admitting to the charges, it does seem noteworthy to highlight the DOJ’s decision not to do anything. After all, as Chris Soghoian points out, if this same bit of hacking were done by a 19 year old hactivist, he’d be rotting in jail, and there would be all sorts of condemnations about what a horrible person he was.

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Comments on “After CIA Angrily Denied Spying On Senate, CIA Admits It Did And Apologizes”

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Anonymous Coward says:

‘if this same bit of hacking were done by a 19 year old hactivist, he’d be rotting in jail, and there would be all sorts of condemnations about what a horrible person he was.’

and dont forget the charges of ‘treason’ and worse that would be banded about, just as they have been for certain whistle blowers who have been discussed here too!

Violynne (profile) says:

Feinstein: Screw Americans their Constitutional rights! It’s for the greater good. Spy away (but don’t spy on me).

CIA: We won’t. Promise! (fingers crossed behind the back).

Feinstein: YOU’RE SPYING ON ME????

CIA: Nah. We love you, Dianne! Come on over, have some cake.

Feinstein: Damn, I wish these Americans would stop whining about us snooping on them. For crying out loud.

CIA: Uh… you’re a victim, too.

Feinstein: WHAT THE HELL?

CIA: We’re sorry.

Feinstein: Okay, apology accepted, now go back to screwing everyone else.

CIA: K! (hugs)

Anonymous Coward says:

Actually lying versus technically not lying, but merely misleading

To me, if a prominent government employee intentionally phrases statements in a way that he expects people to misunderstand in his favour, he may as well be lying. Whether he lies by outright misstatement, least untruthful answer, or misleading truth, you cannot trust what he says.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Actually lying versus technically not lying, but merely misleading

It’s like if I say “the Pope is Jewish” and leave out “in a fictional story I’m writing”. While the first part may be technically true in light of the second part, by leaving out the second part it becomes a lie nonetheless.

If it is intended to mislead from the truth, it is a lie. Period.

Jasmine Charter says:


This is a pattern with this particular administration – from Obama down to his lowest cronnie.

Deny as long as possible… then, admit it finally when the media attention (if there even is any media attention from the mainstream, left leaning media) and either apologize or say (as Hillary did) “Why does it matter now?”

There have been some similar reactions in the past with other Presidents, but that was back when the media was still doing it’s job and at least TRYING to keep the government as honest as possible. Now, they don’t even pretend. They are so blatantly obviously on this administrations side, they should just wear I LOVE OBAMA buttons and be done with it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“I wonder if Snowden could get away with saying “I apologize”. Would the US Senate forgive him, too, just as easily? Something tells me they’d put him in solitary confinement and throw away the key.”

The potential blackmail he might have on the Senate, is nothing compared to the really career ending stuff the Intel Community is using to keep power and manipulate the leadership into doing what it wants.

Anonymous Coward says:

Everyone gets their due

Eventually everyone will get their due.

As long as we dont forget, obama, bush, holder, cheney and the rest will eventually serve their time.

20 years from now none of them will be worth the time to spit on, but they will be worth the time to put in prison.

Be in it for the long game. Sit back, relax and collect data.

Jason says:

Re: Re:

That’s the biggest thing that disgusts me about the entire situation. (Well, aside from the fact that all this is happening in the first place.)

If being “forced to resign” is the worst ‘punishment’ that is meted out to the people responsible for this, then as far as I’m concerned that’s just as reprehensible as all the unconstitutional spying.

GEMont (profile) says:

Merry Go Round

“… it’s entirely possible this could result in Brennan being forced to resign…”

No biggie. He can always charge $1,000,000.00 a month for selling government communications secrets, masquerading as patented hacker profiling software, to private industry… as long as he’s willing to pass along official lies to the Truth Free Press from the Most Transparent Administration In American History like a certain comrade named Alexander is doing.

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