CIA's John Brennan Refuses To Tell Senate Who Okayed Spying On The Senate

from the constitutional-crisis dept

As you may recall, over the past few months, there’s been a rather big story brewing, concerning how the CIA spied on Senate staffers. Specifically, after having explicitly promised not to do so, the CIA snooped on a private network of Senate staffers who were putting together the giant $40 million report on the CIA’s torture program. The CIA tried to spin the story, claiming that they only spied on that network after realizing that those staffers had a document that the CIA thought it had not handed over to the staffers (they had), believing that perhaps there had been a security breach. However, when read carefully, the CIA’s spin actually confirmed the original story: the CIA, against basically all of its mandates and the basic concept of the Constitutional separation of powers, had spied on the Senate. While both the Senate and the CIA asked the DOJ to investigate, eventually the DOJ said the matter was closed and there would be no prosecutions.

At the end of July, the CIA finally came out and admitted that it had spied on the Senate, and effectively admitted that CIA boss John Brennan had flat out lied about it back in March. The CIA’s inspector general then revealed that the spying went even further than people had originally believed. This raised even more questions, but with Brennan “apologizing” and Senator Dianne Feinstein saying that she was satisfied with the apology, it seemed like this unfortunate incident may have been over and done with.

Apparently not. Last week, in the latest meeting concerning the torture report redactions, apparently some Senators asked Brennan to reveal who authorized the spying on the Senate staffers, and Brennan refused to tell them, leading to a bunch of very angry Senators — which may create some further issues, given that the Senators are supposed to oversee the CIA.

Tensions between the CIA and its congressional overseers erupted anew this week when CIA Director John Brennan refused to tell lawmakers who authorized intrusions into computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to compile a damning report on the spy agency?s interrogation program.

Multiple Senators spoke out angrily about the situation:

?I?m concerned there?s disrespect towards the Congress,? Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who also serves as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told McClatchy. ?I think it?s arrogant, I think it?s unacceptable.?

?I continue to be incredibly frustrated with this director,? said Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. ?He does not respect the role of the committee in providing oversight, and he continues to stonewall us on basic information, and it?s very frustrating. And it certainly doesn?t serve the agency well.?

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said he was ?renewing my call? for Brennan?s resignation.

The CIA’s response to all of this is typically maddening, in that it shows how they try to underplay what really happened:

CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said that Brennan declined to answer the committee?s questions because doing so could have compromised an investigation into the computer intrusions by an accountability board headed by former Sen. Evan Bayh.

The McClatchy report suggests that in the meeting, Brennan “raised his voice at Feinstein.” Senator Levin noted that the CIA’s response to this whole thing is bogus, because even if there is an independent investigation (set up by the CIA) going on, it doesn’t mean that Brennan himself gets to shirk his responsibility to answer questions coming from the Senate committees that oversee his activities.

?It may or may not be appropriate for the (CIA) IG to answer, but it?s not appropriate for Brennan to refuse to answer. If he doesn?t know the answers, he can say so,? said Levin.

Levin continued, ?He either knows the information or he doesn?t. If he doesn?t know the answers, OK, tell us. It?d be kind of stunning if he didn?t know the answers to those questions, but if that?s what he wants to say, he should tell us.?

Of course, the big question is, what will the Senate do about this other than make a lot of noise? Brennan seems to be banking on “absolutely nothing,” and he may be right.

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Comments on “CIA's John Brennan Refuses To Tell Senate Who Okayed Spying On The Senate”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Time to cut off their funding.
Cut their mission.
Cut their access.

Dismantle the fing thing and see when they want to start talking. Perhaps if the result of lying to those who you are supposed to answer to is you ass in a sling and an out of control agency dismantled and prosecutions happening maybe just maybe the other agencies might stop withholding things.

The country is already screwed, might as well use this as a fine time to undo much of the bad and clean house.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: It is amazing to me that...

CIA just gets away with this and will continue to do so until Congress does something about it (like trims their funding).

I suspect the reason they’re not is because CIA has leverage of some sort so that there’d be a degree of retaliation.

…so doesn’t that mean that CIA rules the country the way the Church ruled Europe?

Anonymous Coward says:

what should happen is the same as if it were an ordinary citizen. if he refuses to name the person concerned, Brennan should take the fall. perhaps if he were sentenced to be locked up for 5 years, he may change his mind. however, if he still refused to tell, the jail time should become a reality, not shown to be an idle threat! the only way to stop any of this sort of thing in the future is to make sure those thinking about it know what the repercussions will be!!

Anonymous Coward says:

There is at least a possibility of more than nothing being done here. Senators, like anyone else, don’t like being spied on. And those few who care about the Constitution won’t like this, either.

But perhaps most importantly, they certainly don’t like having their authority challenged. If there’s one thing that can get them to look past partisanship, it’s a challenge to their power.

Raging Alcoholic (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I agree. Congress is slowly losing all power to an Executive Branch that believes it is OK to spy on Congress, American Citizens, foreign governments, etc.

They need to pursue a criminal investigation or something. If there are no legal remedies they need to go on TV and ask the president to replace him. Something like this, where the president must decide if he will no longer obey their wish or that he will fire him. Something that forces a very public show down.

I thought the CIA wasn’t allowed to operate in the United States.
If the CIA doesn’t know who authorized the spying is it possible to fire the director for being incompetent.

America has become a very shady place to live. The things I was taught about the balance of power no longer seem to apply.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: cant one be held in contempt of congress or some such?

This is a british parliamentarism thing, last thing parliament used it in canada, it finally gave Stephen Harper his majority in 2011, he was sitting there since 2006 being told no to everything (the good kind of gridlock though) and now he’s gone rabid with treasonous-like behaviour : see article on the China having control of British Columbia now.

Not Surprised says:

Seriously, is anyone surprised?

Since the Bush administration (and in some cases, further back than that), many agencies have gone almost fully rogue. NSA spies on anyone it wants, FBI creates whatever terror plots it wants, CIA breeches its overseas-only establishment whenever it wants, DOJ refuses to investigate or prosecute anything that’s remotely difficult, White House drone strikes whatever it wants with impunity, FCC sleeps with whatever the highest bidder is, EPA willfully withholds evidence against those it’s supposed to protect us from, …

Nothing is going to happen to anyone beyond a resignation, at the absolute worst. Welcome to what happens when accountability goes out the door and governments choose to obey or disobey anything they want. After all, what the hell can we do? Vote? Oh wait, “voter fraud,” now we can’t vote.

Europe looks really nice this time of year.

Anonymous Coward says:

Nothing will change by itself.

I hate to say this, but something big and disturbing needs to happen. I am not talking about taking up arms here and disband the government, but something big that shakes the very foundation of the country. Often the only way real change happens is if politicians get scared. 1½ year ago, I thought something like the Snowden revelations could do it, but apparently not.
I don’t wish for anyone to die or anything like that, but a massive conspiracy (against politicians… we all know the public don’t matter) leaked from one of the agencies would be good right about now.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Nothing will change by itself.

What is big and disturbing enough?

6 years ago we had the largest national and worldwide economic disaster since the Great Depression, in which governments and all major financial institutions were intimately involved with and at fault. No change, the same politicians oversee and are bought off by the same companies.

For 10 or 12 years we’ve had leaks about massive surveillance of practically everyone by every 3 or 4 lettered agency of all the biggest western countries. No change, the same politicians not doing anything resembling oversight of those agencies.

A month ago, we have the latest in a long string of questionable police shootings, and then massive overreaction using military gear against the following protests. No change, most police forces around the country are still getting new military equipment and no oversight from the politicians gladly helping them get it.

There isn’t a “massive conspiracy” as Hollywood movies would have against the citizenry or politicians. There is simply illegal and unconstitutional actions, abuse of power, and no punishment or accountability when they happen. If those things aren’t big enough to actually get some accountability back into the system – no single outside force or situation is. We have to demand it and keep demanding until it changes. We as societies are ultimately in charge of our governments. It’s time we reminded the politicians of that.

Tweak (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Nothing short of blood and fire...

I must agree with you; however, we should try protesting first, if only to expedite the process.

The entire alphabet soup of Washington is seemingly filled with the corrupt and power-mad. If Congress, as our representatives in federal arena, will not toughen up and get to work cleaning house, we citizens need to do so.

What can we do to start organizing this sort of thing?

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The first steps of revolution...

…are garnering support (informing the public of what’s going on in a way that’s accessible and believable) and getting educated about the revolutionary process.

This is the tricky part. Organizing is a full time startup-company job (e.g. long hours, low pay).

Even Hitler started out as a “drummerboy” (WWI war hero Goering was going to be the leader of the Nazis) until he was clearly popular to be the front man.

We have a legitimate grievance. But it’s so outrageous that people who don’t see it will have a hard time believing it.

Protests are good, but as with any defiance of institution they’re risky. Ideally our representatives would see the concerns as legitimate and make changes. But more likely, not, and you have to keep protesting until they send the police to disperse the protest. And that’s going to be painful. It’s also the point, as it demonstrates that peaceful protest is no longer tolerated by the establishment.

I had thought that Occupy did that for us, but maybe that news is too old.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Nothing short of blood and fire...

Wait a minute, create a believable third party that can grab just 10% out of elections from the 2 legged monolith. They’ll be so scared that, then, if they don’t start illegalizing the KIDS in that party, yeah i’m speaking of 18 to 34 people only can be part of it because it might demand combat skills.

Ukrainians aren’t heros, the cops were told not to retaliate at Maidan and just to block entry to parliament. Then they were shot and set and fire. Then that government gets called corrupted while ours are called awesome. Fuck that.

Like the guy below me, although undesirables in many, but not all ways, the NSDAP formed as a political party full of young people.

Trash your ps3, keep a pc but for working purposes (also reading). No more amusement, have compassion for the homeless guy, your age that can’t do nothing but shoot himself with heroin into oblivion because he can’t fucking endure this society anymore living on a park bench near your apartment. Get him in there, get him on methadone treatment, and educate him just like everyone else.

Seperating each other into groups doesn’t work, punks tried in the early 80’s to even the mid 90’s to work as a no prejudice kind of political force but that failed due to hey industry embraced our music now we can live off it, Nirvana caused this, accidentally, probably why Kurt shot himself.

Lots of rambling but yeah, it’s like the 60 and over should all die suddenly and it would be really easier to make a better world NOW.

Andyroo says:


I am Actually astounded that they would think they are safe from the intrusion into their privacy, They have given power to organisations to use this power, the network intrusions they have created have all been authorised, well sort of, and yet the Senate honestly believes that they are immune to the spying of the NSA and others, I am seriously astounded that people with so much power are honestly so ignorant.

Chris-Mouse (profile) says:

There really is a simple solution to get to the bottom of this. Too bad the politicians aren’t brave enough to use it.

1) Send a list of questions to the head of a government department, along with a date, time, and location where the head is to present the answers. Order the head of the department to bring his second in command along for the presentation.
2) If the head of the department fails to show up, or fails to answer the questions, fire the head of the department, and revoke any and all security clearances. Promote the second in command to head of the department. Give the new head of the department the same list, a new date and time, and orders to return with a new second in command of the department.
3) Repeat until either the answers are forthcoming, or the department runs out of personnel.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

the sad thing is they wouldent give a crap the private sector pays better. prison time for crap like this and having their salaries meet what they would get by selling out would be the only motivation. as is your just getting people who are making enough friends to have a cushy consulting job when they jump of the revolving door.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If the head of the department fails to show up, or fails to answer the questions, fire the head of the department,

I don’t think Congress has that authority. They can charge them with contempt of Congress, but who enforces that? If it’s the executive branch then it’s meaningless. Can the Capitol Police arrest members of the executive?

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