CIA Internal Review Clears CIA Of Senate Hacking Allegations; Claims Senate Improperly Accessed Classified Documents

from the CIA-says-CIA-did-nothing-wrong.-No-news-at-11. dept

Now that the long-delayed CIA Torture Report has been released, it’s time to find someone to blame. Not for the torture, of course. There will apparently be no punishments handed down for the abuse uncovered by the Senate Intelligence Committee. (Also, apparently, there will be no huge international fallout. Remember just a few short weeks ago when we were promised increased terrorist activity if the report was released? Still waiting…) But there will be some noise made about the Senate’s alleged impropriety.

One-man transparency army Jason Leopold reports at Vice that the Senate allegedly stole documents from the CIA — documents they weren’t supposed to have access to. But the credulity of this assertion really depends on how much you trust the source.

Contrary to accusations leveled by the Senate, a 38-page report has found that the CIA did not breach the computers of Senate Intelligence Committee staffers and spy on them while they were investigating the CIA’s torture program.

The report was released today by the CIA. And is based on a review conducted by a CIA accountability board.

What the accountability board’s review did find, however, is that Senate Intelligence Committee staffers stole documents from the CIA and violated an agreement it entered into with the agency over the use of a classified computer network. On several occasions between 2009 and 2013, while the committee was writing its report, committee staffers allegedly gained access to CIA documents they were not authorized to see — such as a spreadsheet that contained a list of videos apparently related to the torture program — and admitted as much when confronted by agency officials.

So, the CIA took it upon itself to perform an investigation no one asked for in order to clear itself of allegations that it had spied on Senate staffers. Chalk that one up to active disinterest by the administration in pursuing any allegations of wrongdoing associated with the Torture Report. Several months ago, the Senate claimed the CIA had hacked its computers and accessed Torture Report work-in-progress but the DOJ declined the invitation to investigate further.

Now, the CIA is claiming it was blameless (you know, other than the torture), based on its own internal investigation. The OIG report alleging CIA abuse of Senate computers was reviewed by the CIA’s in-house Accountability Board and determined to be “riddled with errors.”

The CIA’s accusations against the Senate boil down to a bundle of classified internal CIA documents known as the “Panetta Review.”

The Intelligence Committee made a formal request to the CIA for the Panetta Review in November 2013 — but unbeknownst to the CIA, the Senate already had a copy. According to the accountability board’s report, the request set off alarm bells at the CIA, leading the agency to believe that the committee may have already accessed the Panetta Review. At that point, the Senate had already completed a draft of its torture report and was battling the CIA over the veracity of the findings and conclusions — that the CIA’s program had been ineffective.

According to the CIA accountability board, the agency went back and reviewed the draft copy of the Senate report and the Panetta Review and found the language in both documents to be “remarkably similar,” meaning that the Senate probably relied on the Panetta Review to draft its report.

If the CIA didn’t want the Senate to access these documents, it’s left unexplained as to how it failed to prevent this. The CIA supposedly had “walled off” space for the Senate to work within its network and actively monitored staffers’ activity. In fact, it was this active monitoring that led to the Senate’s accusations of CIA impropriety in the first place.

[CIA Director John] Brennan later revealed to Feinstein that he authorized the CIA employees to conduct a search of Intelligence Committee computers at the secure facility to determine how they obtained the Panetta Review. A CIA review of computer “audit logs” concluded that no one at the CIA had voluntarily turned over the Panetta Review.

That disclosure led Feinstein to make a dramatic speech on the Senate floor last March in which she accused the CIA of unlawfully monitoring Senate staffers’ computers and attempting to sabotage the committee’s investigation, which “undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activities or any other government function.”

The agency determined that no one on its side had handed over the forbidden Panetta Review, so somehow the Senate had managed to thwart the CIA’s secured system and access documents it wasn’t supposed to see. Now, the CIA is pressing the DOJ to investigate the Senate. If this push is successful, the only people to be punished for years of unlawful torture will be Senate staffers. This won’t do anything to salvage the CIA’s reputation, but it may deter further investigations and oversight by the Congress and Senate. There’s really only one reason the CIA wanted to keep the Panetta Review out of the Senate’s hands, and it has nothing to do with national security and everything to do with self-preservation.

[T]he Intelligence Committee had found the findings of the Panetta Review — which had been conducted internally by the CIA — to be very different from what the CIA was telling the Intelligence Committee in response to the committee’s torture report.

The fact that the CIA wants to punish the Senate for the Torture Report has provoked some heated responses from Senate Intelligence Committee members. Dianne Feinstein issued this short statement late Wednesday:

“Let me be clear: I continue to believe CIA’s actions constituted a violation of the constitutional separation of powers and unfortunately led to the CIA’s referral of unsubstantiated criminal charges to the Justice Department against committee staff,” Feinstein said. “I’m disappointed that no one at the CIA will be held accountable. The decision was made to search committee computers, and someone should be found responsible for those actions.”

Ron Wyden issued a longer statement in response, one that shows his irritation at the CIA being so willing to let itself off the hook:

“Both the CIA Inspector General and the review board appointed by Director Brennan have now concluded that the CIA’s unauthorized search of Senate files was improper. It is incredible that no one at the CIA has been held accountable for this very clear violation of Constitutional principles. Director Brennan either needs to reprimand the individuals involved or take responsibility himself. So far he has done neither.

This episode further illustrates the cumulative corrosive effects of the CIA’s torture program. First, agency officers and contractors went far beyond the limits set out even in the Justice Department’s torture memos. Then, top officials spent a decade making inaccurate statements about torture’s effectiveness to Congress, the White House and the American people. Next, instead of acknowledging these years of misrepresentations, the CIA’s current leadership decided to double down on denial. And when CIA officials were worried that the Intelligence Committee had found a document that contradicted their claims, they secretly searched Senate computer files to find out if Senate investigators had obtained it.

At a time when the CIA appears incapable of policing itself, the intelligence community needs more external oversight, not less.

Last June senior officials from the NSA, FBI and ODNI all testified that their agencies did not have the authority to conduct a search of U.S. Senate files without external authorization, but Director Brennan has refused to say what rules apply to the CIA. This is unacceptable in a democracy. It is time for the Director’s stonewalling to end.”

Now, let’s suppose that all of the CIA’s allegations are true. If so, should the Senate be held accountable for actions it took that resulted in the exposure of CIA wrongdoing? Obviously, the CIA feels it should. But the documents “improperly accessed” were internal CIA documents that showed the agency was lying to its overseers about its interrogation techniques. Without this “improper” access, it’s likely the Torture Report wouldn’t have been as devastating. Large amounts of CIA wrongdoing would have remained undisclosed.

What’s included in the Panetta Review is information the Senate Intelligence Committee should have had access to in the first place. But the CIA deliberately and wrongfully withheld information that contradicted the narrative it was feeding to its overseers. If the Senate is to be punished for its wrongful access, then it follows that the CIA should be held accountable for its deliberate misrepresentation of its torture programs. Instead, there’s now a chance the investigators will pay for their (mild in comparison) misconduct while the agency walks away clean.

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Comments on “CIA Internal Review Clears CIA Of Senate Hacking Allegations; Claims Senate Improperly Accessed Classified Documents”

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Anon E. Mous (profile) says:

And is anyone surprised that the CIA would clear it self of spying on the senate. I doubt it.

If you ever wondered how far the U.S. Government will go to protect it’s spying apparatus, this is verifiable proof.

It’s is amazing just how far the lines between right and wrong have become so blurred, and by the very people who are there to uphold those lines.

Anonymous Coward says:

CIA is a rogue agency. I think that sums everything up best.

– They spied on their Congressional overseers.
– They lied to everybody about the ineffectiveness of torture.
– Their “accountability board” clears them of all accountability.
– They carry out international assassination campaigns using drones on a daily basis.
– They spy on domestic individuals, government officials, and communications.

Just to name a few of their rogue activities. So long as there’s no accountability for the CIA, nothing about their behavior will change. No accountability is how rogue agencies are born and raised.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well, yes and no. On thius aprticular issue, both the CIA and the White House are rogue entities. The White House should be reigning in the excesses of the CIA, but because of the fuckwit army in the media (mainly Faux News and MSNopeBC), there is neither the political will nor the required environment for this to happen.

Anonymous Coward says:

When the fox makes out a security report on the hen house, you can bet there is never any problem short of a few malcontent chickens.

This errr…. report should surprise no one. All you have to do is look at how far they were willing to go over the release of the CIA report containing the Panetta information as a source.

The report will be about cover up and proclaiming innocence. It’s time to clean house in a lot of different senior management of various agencies, just like what is happening with the Secret Service now.

These agencies have made mockery of the Constitution.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yet the people who are in charge of all of it continue to ramp up the evil. We can call it whatever we like, but the truth is we kidnapped people with no trial, conviction or legal excuse. We then tortured many of them for years straight. When some of them tried to kill themselves through refusing to eat or drink, we further humiliated them by shoving things up their anus. There is no medical reason to do this, it is just to rape them. When those people refuse to bow down to the supreme authority of the captors, cowards are sent in to make them fear they are about to die. This time they miscalculated and killed them. They were then framed and more lies were told to excuse this last evil. Oh and our current president who is a constitutional scholar, along with every other official who even had a hint of this taking place and did nothing, deserves to spend the rest of their lives receiving reciprocal treatment. We do not have a moral high ground on any atrocities going on around the world until we stop torturing and killing people and trying to call it peace.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

I don’t understand all the intra-governmental doc-blocking in the first place, nor the lack of responsibility, accountability, and transparency to to public. Well actually I do understand it, but it seems contrary to the good things about civilization, or democracy, or our oh-so-exceptional brand of constitutional representative government. Aside from fairly brief moments of glory, humans are pretty stupid as a group.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’m pretty sympathetic to (but don’t completely agree — I don’t hate groups of people, but I do view them warily) this George Carlin quote:

People are wonderful. I love individuals. I hate groups of people. I hate a group of people with a ‘common purpose’. ‘Cause pretty soon they have little hats. And armbands. And fight songs. And a list of people they’re going to visit at 3am. So, I dislike and despise groups of people but I love individuals. Every person you look at; you can see the universe in their eyes, if you’re really looking.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Garraty had a vivid and scary image of the great god Crowd clawing its way out of the Augusta basin on scarlet spiderlegs and devouring them all alive.

The town itself had been swallowed, strangled, and buried. In a very real sense there was no Augusta, and there were no more fat ladies, or pretty girls, or pompous men, or wet-crotched children waving puffy clouds of cotton candy. There was no bustling Italian man here to throw slices of watermelon. Only Crowd, a creature with no body, no head, no mind. Crowd was nothing but a Voice and an Eye, and it was not surprising that Crowd was both God and Mammon. Garraty felt it. He knew the others were feeling it. It was like walking between giant electrical pylons, feeling the tingles and shocks stand every hair on end, making the tongue fitter nuttily in the mouth, making the eyes seem to crackle and shoot off sparks as they rolled in their beds of moisture. Crowd was to be pleased. Crowd was to be worshipped and feared. Ultimately, Crowd was to be made sacrifice unto.

~Stephen King, The Long Walk

David says:

I don't get it.

The Senate oversight committee is tasked with overseeing the CIA operations, and now the CIA levies accusations against the committee looking at things that were supposed to be kept hidden from oversight?

And that’s going to fly?

It’s like a child claiming it must not be punished for getting caught with its hand in the cookie jar since it explicitly had hidden grandma’s glasses away in order to escape detection and grandma had recovered them faster than she could reasonably have been expected to.

I mean, can someone explain the meaning of “oversight” to me? It does not appear to mean what I thought it did.

“You are not allowed to peek when we pull the wool over your eyes” or what? What kind of absurd theatre is that?


Beech says:

Logical conclusion

“A CIA review of computer “audit logs” concluded that no one at the CIA had voluntarily turned over the Panetta Review.”

Well if no one at the CIA gave it to them, then the only explanation is that one of the Senate staffers is secretly an uber-hacker capable of penetrating the CIA’s computer network…hahaha. Just kidding. Like anyone affiliated with the Senate has any technical expertise.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Logical conclusion

Actually, the inclusion of the word “voluntarily” changes the entire meaning of the sentence.

Without “Voluntarily”:

“A CIA review of computer “audit logs” concluded that no one at the CIA had turned over the Panetta Review.” (to the SIC)

– this would mean that literally no-one from the CIA turned over the Panetta Report to the SIC, so the SIC must have stolen the Review, or received it from someone outside the CIA.

But with the inclusion of the word voluntarily, it means that the person or persons from the CIA who turned the Review over to the SIC, did so under direct orders from above in the command chain rather than doing so voluntarily out of good faith, or a sense of duty.

Slick eh!

Hans says:

CIA Inspector General Resigning

Surprise! The CIA Inspector General David Buckley, who wrote the report (mildly) critical of the CIA’s actions here is resigning at the end of the month to “pursue an opportunity in the private sector.” And just to head off any suspicion:

Officials at both the CIA and on Capitol Hill said his departure was unrelated to politics or anything he had investigated.

Why would we think otherwise? I wonder what the IG himself would say?

JP Jones (profile) says:

I’ll let the actual policy on classification speak for itself:

Executive Order 1326: Classified National Security Information, Sec 1.7(a):

“In no case shall information be classified, continue to be maintained as classified, or fail to be declassified in order to:

(1) conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error;

(2) prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency;

(3) restrain competition; or

(4) prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of the national security.”

So considering the Panetta Review was clearly in violation of (1) and possibly (2), how exactly did the Senate staff access classified information? It’s not even a question of whether or not they should have had access…it’s a question of whether or not the item in question was legally classified in the first place.

It always amazes me that we live in a country where people get so upset about revealing classified information regarding illegal activity or other embarrassing secrets when our own laws specifically forbid classifying information for those reasons. Once revealed, it should probably be determined whether or not the information was properly classified before we bother prosecuting someone for improperly revealing classified information.

Just a thought.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re:

it is simply astounding to see a world unfolding that was foretold in any of a dozen dystopian sci fi novels, etc; and yet to be both seduced by the incremental and insidious nature of it, and silently horrified at its open implementation…

1984, newspeak, doublethink, thoughtcrimes, etc…
ALL coming to pass, if not in full flower…

in that vein, war = peace, hate = love, and -our new twist!- money = speech, now become sick reminders that Empire is in your face, in your ear, in your eyes, and in your stupid fucking brain…

so, citizen, how is it you don’t realize that bribes = lobbying, corruption = revolving door, and criminal = 99% ? ? ?
WE -the 1%- control the gummint, WE control the laws, WE control law enforcement, WE control the media, WE control EVERYTHING; and YOU – the 99%- control nothing but your own sphincter…

Anonymous Coward says:

There’s one thing wrong at the start of this: there is an international response following the release of the torture report. But it’s not a response to the report; we already knew that you’d been torturing our citizens.

The response is to the emerging evidence that you aren’t going to _stop_ torturing our citizens.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, when people in the government tried to stop the report from being released by claiming it’s release would cause ‘international tensions’ or other problems, they were right in a sense, but not for the reason they were claiming.

Exposing that the CIA and various other parts of the USG was and is involved in the kidnapping, torture, and murder of random citizens is bad enough, but what’s really pissing people off, and is the cause of most of the anger I’d imagine, is the USG’s pretty blatant acceptance of those actions; it’s complete and utter indifference with regards to actually punishing those involved.

The USG is making it clear that it sees absolutely nothing wrong with torture and murder of random people, you’d have to be a pure sociopath not to be furious at that.

The thing is, the release of the report could have been a positive thing for the US, if they’d followed through on investigations and punishment.

If the USG had, after releasing the report exposing the torture program, admitted, ‘Yeah, we really screwed up here, and allowed terrible things to happen, things with no possible acceptable justification’, and then publicly investigated those involved, top to bottom, and punished those found guilty, it would have done a world of good at mititaging the damage done to the US’s reputation. It would have shown that the actions described were not acceptable, and those involved in them were being punished for their actions.

By instead doing absolutely nothing about the matter though, the USG is instead stating, for the world to see, that torture is perfectly fine according to it, and like I said, you’d have to be a pure sociopath not to be massively furious and disgusted at a stance like that.

Anonymous Coward says:

SIC staffers stole the Panetta Review, which contributed to the crafting of the Torture Report. The Torture Report’s (somewhat redacted) Executive Summary was released to the public. I fully expect a whole host of former and current Senators to be charged under the Espionage Act. After all, motive, intent, and consequences are immaterial. Right?

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Self review

The report should surprise no one because it is a self review, “I looked at my actions, and my actions were correct.”

This isn’t a problem with the CIA. It is a problem with all the three-letter-agencies of the federal government, and virtually every police force and prosecutor’s office in the United States.

If there is a needed constitutional amendment, it is this: “No office or agency of the United States, when accused of criminal action, shall exonerate itself.”

Pronounce (profile) says:

Who Should Be Punished?

The idea that the reporter and not the perpetrator should be punished is one of the most frustrating and annoying aspects of my culture. (It isn’t just those in our government that do this by the way.)

Truth revealers are reviled, mocked, and punished by those in power and the lynch mob of a public that spews venom on those who want to do what’s right, honest, and true.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Who Should Be Punished?

On the lizard-brain level, I think this is understandable. An effective whistleblower brings down the house of cards that the wrongdoers have build. When that house comes down, there will inevitably be damage that people will object to. Since the proximate cause of that effect is the whistleblowing itself, the lizard brain just says “whistleblowing caused the damage” and slithers on its way.

It takes a small amount of higher brain function to understand that the damage was actually caused by the wrongdoing, not the whistleblowing, and that damage would have happened sooner or later anyway.

People in power prefer to appeal to our lizard brain rather than our higher brain, and the average person just doesn’t have the time or interest to put much effort into thinking these types of things through.

GEMont (profile) says:

Criminal Carte Blanche

“… walks away clean.”

Now there’s a word I would never consider using in reference to the CIA, or anything the CIA has done, or touched.

However, since the complete lack of consequences for the dirty deeds of this agency is now obviously inevitable, so too is the future repetition of similar and even dirtier deeds equally inevitable.

All this accomplishes is to inform the CIA and other spying agencies that they can indeed get away with absolutely anything – any criminal activity – as long as they secretly do their specific administration’s bidding and deny all charges brought against them.

I think it is now obvious that, at the formation of the Five Eyes coalition, the administrations of the member countries agreed that no harm should ever befall their separate spy agencies, regardless of the severity of the crime for which they are charged, and that all possible venues of legal and illegal relief be made secretly available in any case where any of these agencies come under legal scrutiny, to prevent any criminal charges from ever succeeding.

In other words, they have a license to fuck the world without consequences, and its probably all “legal”.

Funny how that word “legal” no longer means what it used to, since the criminals started writing the laws.

Anonymous Coward says:

It is incredible that no one at the CIA has been held accountable for this very clear violation of Constitutional principles.

Here’s a fun new game I’ve discovered. Go to a major news site and do a search for stories about the CIA. Read each of them, and see if you can find a single one for which the above quote wouldn’t make an appropriate closing line.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re:

At this stage of the game, I would be utterly shocked to discover that the CIA HAD BEEN held accountable for any violation of the Constitution, or Law.

I assume the CIA, NSA, FBI and HLS have all been given the same sort of immunity from legal consequences that assassins are usually afforded by their government employers – a license to torture, murder, lie, cheat, steal, ruin people’s lives, falsify documents and any other action they might need to perform from time to time, to “get the job done”.

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