CIA: We Only Spied On Senate Intelligence Committee Because They Took Classified Documents That Prove We're Liars

from the good-luck-with-that dept

Earlier this week, we wrote about the accusations that the CIA was spying on Senate staffers on the Senate Intelligence Committee as they were working on a massive $40 million, 6,300-page report condemning the CIA's torture program. The DOJ is apparently already investigating if the CIA violated computer hacking laws in spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee computers. The issue revolved around a draft of an internal review by the CIA, which apparently corroborates many of the Senate report's findings -- but which the CIA did not hand over to the Senate. This internal report not only supports the Senate report's findings, but also shows that the CIA has been lying in response to questions about the terror program.

In response to all of this, it appears that the CIA is attempting, weakly, to spin this as being the Senate staffers' fault, arguing that the real breach was the fact that the Senate staffers somehow broke the rules in obtaining that internal review. CIA boss John Brennan's statement hints at the fact that he thinks the real problem was with the way the staffers acted, suggesting that an investigation would fault "the legislative" branch (the Senate) rather than the executive (the CIA).
In his statement on Wednesday Brennan hit back in unusually strong terms. “I am deeply dismayed that some members of the Senate have decided to make spurious allegations about CIA actions that are wholly unsupported by the facts,” Brennan said.

“I am very confident that the appropriate authorities reviewing this matter will determine where wrongdoing, if any, occurred in either the executive branch or legislative branch,” Brennan continued, raising a suggestion that the Senate committee itself might have acted improperly.
A further report detailed what he's talking about. Reporters at McClatchy have revealed that the Senate staffers working on this came across the document, printed it out, and simply walked out of the CIA and over to the Senate with it, and the CIA is furious about that. Then, in a moment of pure stupidity, the CIA appears to have confronted the Senate Intelligence Committee about all of this... directly revealing that they were spying on the Committee staffers.
Several months after the CIA submitted its official response to the committee report, aides discovered in the database of top-secret documents at CIA headquarters a draft of an internal review ordered by former CIA Director Leon Panetta of the materials released to the panel, said the knowledgeable person.

They determined that it showed that the CIA leadership disputed report findings that they knew were corroborated by the so-called Panetta review, said the knowledgeable person.

The aides printed the material, walked out of CIA headquarters with it and took it to Capitol Hill, said the knowledgeable person.

“All this goes back to what is the technical structure here,” said the U.S. official who confirmed the unauthorized removal. “If I was a Senate staffer and I was given access to documents on the system, I would have a laptop that’s cleared. I would be allowed to look at these documents. But with these sorts of things, there’s generally an agreement that you can’t download or take them.”

The CIA discovered the security breach and brought it to the committee’s attention in January, leading to a determination that the agency recorded the staffers’ use of the computers in the high-security research room, and then confirmed the breach by reviewing the usage data, said the knowledgeable person.
There are many more details in the McClatchy report, which I highly recommend reading. And, yes, perhaps there's an argument that Senate staffers weren't supposed to take such documents, but the CIA trying to spin this by saying it was those staffers who were engaged in "wrongdoing" is almost certainly going to fall flat with Congress. After all, the intelligence committee is charged with oversight of the CIA, not the other way around. "You stole the documents we were hiding from you which proved we were lying, so we spied on you to find out how you did that" is not, exactly, the kind of argument that too many people are going to find compelling.

Still, the latest is that the CIA has successfully convinced the DOJ to have the FBI kick off an investigation of the Senate staffers, rather than of the CIA breaking the law and spying on their overseers.

Of course, the CIA may still have one advantage on its side: there are still some in Congress who are so supportive of the intelligence community itself that even they will make excuses for the CIA spying on their own staff. At least that seems to be the response from Senate Intelligence vice chair Senator Saxby Chambliss, one of the most ardent defenders of the intelligence community he's supposed to be watching over. When asked about all of this, he seemed to be a lot more concerned about the staffers supposedly taking "classified" documents than about the CIA spying on those staffers:
“I have no comment. You should talk to those folks that are giving away classified information and get their opinion,” Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said when asked about the alleged intrusions.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Mar 7th, 2014 @ 5:35am

    Proper channels...

    So I really can't help but find funny their supposed 'anger' over the printing out and sharing of those documents, or at least their laughable attempts to blame the anger on the fact that classified documents were shared when they shouldn't have, rather than the fact those those documents exposed their lying.

    Had they done the 'proper' thing and notified those involved, the CIA and the Intelligence Committee, without having evidence to back up their claims, given we're talking about a report showing how the CIA was lying to the Intelligence Committee, the same committee that was supposed to be providing oversight on the CIA's actions, do they really expect anyone to buy the idea that they would have just gone 'Oh, you got us, yeah, we've been lying to you this whole time, here's the real information you've been looking for'?

    Yeah, not likely.

    Instead, they most likely would have buried the report, and then when the committee came calling, tried to bury them with an avalanche of excuses along the lines of 'it's classified' and/or 'no such report can be found(and even if it could, it would still be classified beyond your clearance)'.

     

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  2.  
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    Jay (profile), Mar 7th, 2014 @ 6:47am

    Talking is a free action..

    " I have no comment. You should talk to those folks that are giving away classified information and get their opinion, Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said when asked about the alleged intrusions."

    Yes... Let's put Dianne Feinstein on line one for exposing more information than even Edward Snowden thanks to showing how these programs weren't about terrorism.

    We should thank her for her boasts...

     

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  3.  
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    Jay (profile), Mar 7th, 2014 @ 8:33am

    No no, you see, in THIS case it's okay for the NSA and the CIA to spy on the Senate Staffers, because by revealing this information, they're making people afraid of the government, and that's TERRORISM!!!!!! See, totally logical and legal.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2014 @ 8:35am

    Replace every instance of the word terror/terrorist with fearmongering, and articles like this really make programs sounds as absurd as they really are.

     

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  5.  
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    Vidiot (profile), Mar 7th, 2014 @ 8:42am

    Seen another way

    (Cut to CIA Director Brennan in purple velour Willy Wonka top hat)

    BRENNAN: "You stole fizzy lifting drinks! You bumped into the ceiling, which now has to be washed and sterilized ...so you get NOTHING! You LOSE! Good DAY, sir!"

     

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  6.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 7th, 2014 @ 8:49am

    Momma's widom

    I seem to remember my mother telling me that "two wrongs don't make a right".

    If the staffers violated the law by taking the documents, fine, investigate and prosecute them. But what the CIA can't do is justify their own lawbreaking based on the "but they broke the law" excuse.

    The CIA should be investigated and prosecuted with exactly as much fervor as the staffers.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2014 @ 9:03am

    Shouldn't those who took the documents be protected under the whistle blower laws?

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2014 @ 9:04am

    The whole point of using computers in a secure room inside the CIA, was to access classified information in a secure setting.

    Basically the CIA is telling it's overseers, "You can only access the classified information we want you to access."

    Am I the only one who thinks it's ridiculous, that the organization being audited, is telling the auditors what they can and cannot do?

    Absurd!

     

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  9.  
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    Tim R (profile), Mar 7th, 2014 @ 9:08am

    Other Point

    Of course, what does it say about the security of the most powerful intelligence gathering organization in the world (citation needed, smirk) that they not only allowed it to happen, but they gave them access to printers ON THEIR OWN MACHINES!!!

     

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  10.  
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    ahow628 (profile), Mar 7th, 2014 @ 9:42am

    What is bothering me about this is that the Executive Branch (DOJ) is investigating the Executive Branch (CIA) for spying on the Legislative Branch (Intelligence Committee). How hard could the DOJ possible push this?

     

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  11.  
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    ahow628 (profile), Mar 7th, 2014 @ 9:43am

    Re:

    I think you mistyped. It should be:

    Shouldn't those who took the documents be prosecuted under the whistle blower laws?

     

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  12.  
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    Misguided Patriot (profile), Mar 7th, 2014 @ 9:44am

    Re: Momma's widom

    My mom agrees with your mom, however my dad taught me that the only time two wrongs do make a right is when the second wrong is that which is perpetrated against the traitor when they hang by the neck until dead.

     

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  13.  
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    Jon Renaut (profile), Mar 7th, 2014 @ 9:50am

    When you start grasping at procedural straws to make an investigation go away, it makes it kind of hard to believe that you aren't hiding something.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2014 @ 10:04am

    Until Congress can grow some teeth and actually punish someone for hiding things from them this will likely be the norm.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2014 @ 10:23am

    The CIA is butt hurt over this. They've been able to tie up that report that shows they are at fault, illegal, and aware of this. So the congressional investigation committee finds evidence of this being so.

    What is so totally being ignored here in this CIA response, is that the intelligence committee has the power to over rule the security classification of documents. They can claim the knowledge of this particular top secret or what ever document is in the interest of the US public to know and then print it up and pass it out. There is nothing the CIA can do should they do that as that is within their power to do.

     

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  16.  
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    Josh, Mar 7th, 2014 @ 10:43am

    printer

    My question is, they have a secure room, letting people look at secure documents that they are not allowed to copy or take with them. Yet they have access to a printer or have the ability to install one??

     

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  17.  
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    Brazenly Anonymous, Mar 7th, 2014 @ 10:47am

    Re: Other Point

    A standard array of USB ports would have been sufficient. Still a security oversight, but I highly doubt these documents were moved via hard-copy.

     

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  18.  
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    Brazenly Anonymous, Mar 7th, 2014 @ 10:49am

    Re: Re: Other Point

    Nevermind, just re-read the account. Yes, that is fairly absurd.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2014 @ 2:08pm

    Congress' head in sand

    With the way congress keeps ignoring what the intelligent agencies are doing and giving them a free pass, pretty soon they'll have so much power, congress won't even be able to reign them in when congress finally realizes it, or the mindless public has had enough.

     

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  20.  
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    127.0.0.1 (profile), Mar 7th, 2014 @ 6:07pm

    Whitewash

    Does anyone *really* know what portion of the CIA's budget is allocated to the purchase of Whitewash?

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Reality bites, Mar 8th, 2014 @ 8:50am

    They are all guilty..... put them in the fema camps

    The government have built all those nice fema camps, would be a pity for them to go to waste.

    Everything federal goes in the fema pen, every 3 letter agency, every contractor every single one of the parasitic lifeforms.

    The National Stasi Association in Utah gets a 100ft wall build around it and filled with water for a new water attraction. Glass bottom boats could view the traitor monument.

    It might just be easier to build a wall around DC too.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Reality bites, Mar 8th, 2014 @ 8:53am

    Re: Traitors have big testicles

    Bowling Balls don't even come close to the size of current batch.

    Benedict Arnold would blush in front of Brennan.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Reality bites, Mar 8th, 2014 @ 8:55am

    Re: DOJ doesn't prosecute drug cartels...no teeth

    Holder's puppet strings don't allow him any movement, he can only murder poor people over a plant.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    David, Mar 9th, 2014 @ 11:27am

    Re: They are all guilty..... put them in the fema camps

    It might just be easier to build a wall around DC too.

    Money will find a way.

    Drown one corrupt government, and the next will stand up.

    Until politicians are prohibited to take any money apart from their tax-provided salary, they'll work against the public interest.

    And probably couple their salary to minimum wage, too.

     

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  25.  
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    nasch (profile), Mar 9th, 2014 @ 5:15pm

    Re: Re: Momma's widom

    the only time two wrongs do make a right is when the second wrong is that which is perpetrated against the traitor when they hang by the neck until dead.

    If it's wrong to hang him, then it's wrong, regardless of what the first wrong was.

     

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  26.  
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    nasch (profile), Mar 9th, 2014 @ 5:17pm

    Re: Re: Other Point

    A standard array of USB ports would have been sufficient.

    Even if that were how they did it, having USB ports on a "secure" computer would be idiotic, unless write access to them were disabled somehow.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    john, Mar 10th, 2014 @ 8:11am

    Re: Momma's widom

    They didn't break the law, they broke regulations - this is different. They also broke it under the Constitutional authority of Congress to directly support it Constitutional responsibility of Executive branch oversight to ensure the Executive branch follows the law. Since the Constitution is the highest law of the land, there was only one wrong -- the CIA hiding a relevant document from their Constitutional oversight.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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