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What's Feinstein So Upset About? CIA Just Spied On Senate Intelligence Committee 'Metadata'

from the not-so-fun-when-it's-your-metadata,-huh? dept

Earlier today, we wrote about Senator Dianne Feinstein's justified anger over the CIA "spying" on the Senate Intelligence Committee staffers as they went about putting together a massive (and apparently incredibly damning) report condemning the CIA's torture program. Having now watched the whole video of her speech, as well as read the transcript, there's a lot more here to discuss. You can watch the speech yourself if you'd like, or read the full transcript, which we've embedded below:
Apparently, some of the concerns actually stem from an earlier incident, from back in 2010, during which the CIA deleted access to a bunch of documents that it had previously given to the committee staffers. This came after an initial fight over whether or not the CIA would interfere with the staffers' efforts. The Intelligence Committee eventually agreed with the CIA's request that the research work be carried out on the CIA's premises, but only after the CIA promised not to interfere and to leave the staffers alone. The staffers requested lots of documents, and the CIA did a full pure data dump on them, just handing over piles and piles of documents with no context at all. Basically, it appears the CIA sought to bury the staffers in bullshit, hoping to hide many of the important bits. In response, the staffers asked the CIA to provide an electronic search engine, in order to go through the electronic documents. Also, to keep things organized, the staffers would regularly make local copies and/or print out key documents so they could more easily organize them and keep track of them. Based on this, they noticed that some documents that had initially been available "went missing" in 2010:
In May of 2010, the committee staff noticed that [certain] documents that had been provided for the committee’s review were no longer accessible. Staff approached the CIA personnel at the offsite location, who initially denied that documents had been removed. CIA personnel then blamed information technology personnel, who were almost all contractors, for removing the documents themselves without direction or authority. And then the CIA stated that the removal of the documents was ordered by the White House. When the committee approached the White House, the White House denied giving the CIA any such order.

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.
Apparently, this snafu was settled quietly between the intelligence committee and the CIA, with the CIA promising not to do it again.

Now, as we've been pointing out, and which was revealed by McClatchy and the NY Times last week, this latest fight is focused mostly on a draft of an internal review by the CIA of the torture program, conducted for then director Leon Panetta. Feinstein reveals some more key details about this document. First, it appears that Panetta more or less ordered the CIA to conduct what appears to be a "shadow review" of the very same documents that were being handed over to the Senate staffers. The report, as noted, appears to come to the same basic conclusions about the CIA's torture program (i.e., that it went to insane lengths and produced absolutely nothing in the way of useful intelligence). This internal review also contradicted the CIA's "official response" to the Intelligence Committee's own report.

Here's where it gets a bit trickier. When current CIA director John Brennan was asked for the full internal report, rather than the draft that the staffers had, there appears to have been a freakout at the CIA, because no one had intended for the intelligence committee to see the report, either as a draft or final report. The CIA appears to have believed that Senate staffers got access to the report illegally (hence the CIA's request that the staffers be investigated for illegal activity). Feinstein denies all of this and notes that the draft report was among the many documents provided in the data dump -- in what now looks like an accident by the CIA folks (and some contractors) in charge of compiling the data dump for the intelligence committee. The staffers "found" this document by using that search tool, which they'd asked the CIA to provide.

Feinstein goes on to reject the claims made by the CIA and CIA supporters that (1) the staffers should have known not to read the documents since they were marked "deliberative" or "privileged" and (2) that they somehow "mishandled" those classified documents by printing them out and bringing them to the Senate. As she notes, both of those claims make little sense. On the classification:
As with many other documents provided to the committee at the CIA facility, some of the Internal Panetta Review documents—some—contained markings indicating that they were “deliberative” and/or “privileged.” This was not especially noteworthy to staff. In fact, CIA has provided thousands of internal documents, to include CIA legal guidance and talking points prepared for the CIA director, some of which were marked as being deliberative or privileged.

Moreover, the CIA has officially provided such documents to the committee here in the Senate. In fact, the CIA’s official June 27, 2013, response to the committee study, which Director Brennan delivered to me personally, is labeled “Deliberative Process Privileged Document.”

We have discussed this with the Senate Legal Counsel who has confirmed that Congress does not recognize these claims of privilege when it comes to documents provided to Congress for our oversight duties.
That takes care of that. On the question of mishandling the documents, the argument is not quite as strong, but still quite reasonable. Yes, it does appear that staffers did not follow the exact process for removing the documents -- in that they were supposed to first review it with CIA staffers, but the reasoning here is not so crazy. The review process was supposedly just so that the CIA could make sure that names of key people or details of operations weren't revealed. The staffers made sure that all such info had been redacted before moving the document -- and, of course, they recognized that this document was a bit of a smoking gun for the CIA in that it appeared to confirm that Director Brennan had been lying to the committee. Taking it to the CIA to review would be an odd move -- especially for staffers tasked with oversight of the CIA itself. Even more important, the staffers noticed that, like back in 2010, that draft review document suddenly "disappeared" from their computer system, despite the previous promises that the CIA wouldn't do that any more (also, she points out that the CIA had previously destroyed early evidence about their torture program). So they made the entirely reasonable decision to make a copy and store it in the Senate:
When the Internal Panetta Review documents disappeared from the committee’s computer system, this suggested once again that the CIA had removed documents already provided to the committee, in violation of CIA agreements and White House assurances that the CIA would cease such activities.

As I have detailed, the CIA has previously withheld and destroyed information about its Detention and Interrogation Program, including its decision in 2005 to destroy interrogation videotapes over the objections of the Bush White House and the Director of National Intelligence. Based on the information described above, there was a need to preserve and protect the Internal Panetta Review in the committee’s own secure spaces.

Now, the Relocation of the Internal Panetta Review was lawful and handled in a manner consistent with its classification. No law prevents the relocation of a document in the committee’s possession from a CIA facility to secure committee offices on Capitol Hill. As I mentioned before, the document was handled and transported in a manner consistent with its classification, redacted appropriately, and it remains secured—with restricted access—in committee spaces.
Now that brings us to the latest "fight." In late 2013, after the intelligence committee had seen that draft report, it had requested the final report from the CIA. That set off alarm bells in the CIA when they realized that the committee knew such a report existed, leading to a freakout and further "searching" the staffers' supposedly private computers and networks:
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.

As I have described, this is not true. The document was made available to the staff at the offsite facility, and it was located using a CIA-provided search tool running a query of the information provided to the committee pursuant to its investigation.
Of course, as Julian Sanchez points out, from this description, it certainly appears that the CIA was collecting "just metadata," and, as you may recall, Feinstein has been at the forefront of arguing that no one should care about the NSA's activities, because it's just metadata. Kinda funny how perspective shifts when it's your metadata being discussed. Suddenly, it becomes a constitutional issue:
Based on what Director Brennan has informed us, I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution, including the Speech and Debate clause. It may have undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activities or any other government function.

[....]

Besides the constitutional implications, the CIA’s search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.
And yet that doesn't apply when the NSA spies on all Americans? Yes, Feinstein is absolutely right to be angry about this. It is an astounding breach of protocol, and given that it's the Senate Intelligence Committee's job to oversee the CIA, it appears to be quite a brazen move by the CIA to effectively undermine the Senate's oversight. It's just too bad she doesn't see how the very same things she's angry about concerning her own staff apply equally to everyone else.

There's one other issue in the speech that should be highlighted as well. She notes both of the referrals (that we've previously discussed) to the DOJ: the request to investigate the CIA's activities, and the CIA's tit-for-tat response asking for an investigation into the staffers' access and removal of the draft Panetta review. Feinstein also points out that the person at the CIA who filed the crimes report against her staffers at the DOJ was heavily involved in the torture program the report condemns, and certainly suggests that the move is much more about intimidating Senate overseers:
Weeks later, I was also told that after the inspector general referred the CIA’s activities to the Department of Justice, the acting general counsel of the CIA filed a crimes report with the Department of Justice concerning the committee staff’s actions. I have not been provided the specifics of these allegations or been told whether the department has initiated a criminal investigation based on the allegations of the CIA’s acting general counsel.

As I mentioned before, our staff involved in this matter have the appropriate clearances, handled this sensitive material according to established procedures and practice to protect classified information, and were provided access to the Panetta Review by the CIA itself. As a result, there is no legitimate reason to allege to the Justice Department that Senate staff may have committed a crime. I view the acting general counsel’s referral as a potential effort to intimidate this staff—and I am not taking it lightly.

I should note that for most, if not all, of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, the now acting general counsel was a lawyer in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center—the unit within which the CIA managed and carried out this program. From mid-2004 until the official termination of the detention and interrogation program in January 2009, he was the unit’s chief lawyer. He is mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in our study.

And now this individual is sending a crimes report to the Department of Justice on the actions of congressional staff—the same congressional staff who researched and drafted a report that details how CIA officers—including the acting general counsel himself—provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice about the program.
Once again, it's worth noting that these are the very same folks that, just weeks ago, Feinstein was insisting would never abuse their positions because they're professionals. She said that on January 19th. That was just four days after CIA Director Brennan had told her about how the CIA had conducted the almost certainly illegal search on her own staffers.\

And, of course, this is the point that many of us have been making all along to Feinstein and other kneejerk defenders of the intelligence community. No matter how "professional" they are, they're still human. And given situations where their own jobs may be threatened, they're going to do what they do, and that often leads to serious abuses, like the ones that now have Feinstein so angry. That's why we're so concerned by her lack of real oversight of the intelligence community for years, as well as the rather permissive attitude that both Congress and the courts have taken for years to the intelligence community, by insisting that they only do what they do for the purposes of "national security." I'm curious what kind of "national security" reason the CIA has for spying on the very staffers who were investigating the CIA's torture program?
Here is the full text of Feinstein's speech:

Over the past week, there have been numerous press articles written about the Intelligence Committee’s oversight review of the Detention and Interrogation Program of the CIA, specifically press attention has focused on the CIA’s intrusion and search of the Senate Select Committee’s computers as well as the committee’s acquisition of a certain internal CIA document known as the Panetta Review.

I rise today to set the record straight and to provide a full accounting of the facts and history.

Let me say up front that I come to the Senate Floor reluctantly. Since January 15, 2014, when I was informed of the CIA’s search of this committee’s network, I have been trying to resolve this dispute in a discreet and respectful way. I have not commented in response to media requests for additional information on this matter. However, the increasing amount of inaccurate information circulating now cannot be allowed to stand unanswered.

The origin of this study: The CIA’s detention and interrogation program began operations in 2002, though it was not until September 2006, that Members of the Intelligence Committee, other than the Chairman and Vice Chairman, were briefed. In fact, we were briefed by then-CIA Director Hayden only hours before President Bush disclosed the program to the public.

A little more than a year later, on December 6, 2007, a New York Times article revealed the troubling fact that the CIA had destroyed videotapes of some of the CIA’s first interrogations using so-called “enhanced techniques.” We learned that this destruction was over the objections of President Bush’s White House Counsel and the Director of National Intelligence.

After we read about the tapes’ destruction in the newspapers, Director Hayden briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee. He assured us that this was not destruction of evidence, as detailed records of the interrogations existed on paper in the form of CIA operational cables describing the detention conditions and the day-to-day CIA interrogations.

The CIA director stated that these cables were “a more than adequate representation” of what would have been on the destroyed tapes. Director Hayden offered at that time, during Senator Jay Rockefeller’s chairmanship of the committee, to allow Members or staff to review these sensitive CIA operational cables given that the videotapes had been destroyed.

Chairman Rockefeller sent two of his committee staffers out to the CIA on nights and weekends to review thousands of these cables, which took many months. By the time the two staffers completed their review into the CIA’s early interrogations in early 2009, I had become chairman of the committee and President Obama had been sworn into office.

The resulting staff report was chilling. The interrogations and the conditions of confinement at the CIA detention sites were far different and far more harsh than the way the CIA had described them to us. As result of the staff’s initial report, I proposed, and then-Vice Chairman Bond agreed, and the committee overwhelmingly approved, that the committee conduct an expansive and full review of CIA’s detention and interrogation program.

On March 5, 2009, the committee voted 14-1 to initiate a comprehensive review of the CIA Detention and Interrogation Program. Immediately, we sent a request for documents to all relevant executive branch agencies, chiefly among them the CIA.

The committee’s preference was for the CIA to turn over all responsive documents to the committee’s office, as had been done in previous committee investigations.

Director Panetta proposed an alternative arrangement: to provide literally millions of pages of operational cables, internal emails, memos, and other documents pursuant to the committee’s document requests at a secure location in Northern Virginia. We agreed, but insisted on several conditions and protections to ensure the integrity of this congressional investigation.

Per an exchange of letters in 2009, then-Vice Chairman Bond, then-Director Panetta, and I agreed in an exchange of letters that the CIA was to provide a “stand-alone computer system” with a “network drive” “segregated from CIA networks” for the committee that would only be accessed by information technology personnel at the CIA—who would “not be permitted to” “share information from the system with other [CIA] personnel, except as otherwise authorized by the committee.”

It was this computer network that, notwithstanding our agreement with Director Panetta, was searched by the CIA this past January, and once before which I will later describe.

In addition to demanding that the documents produced for the committee be reviewed at a CIA facility, the CIA also insisted on conducting a multi-layered review of every responsive document before providing the document to the committee. This was to ensure the CIA did not mistakenly provide documents unrelated to the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program or provide documents that the president could potentially claim to be covered by executive privilege.

While we viewed this as unnecessary and raised concerns that it would delay our investigation, the CIA hired a team of outside contractors—who otherwise would not have had access to these sensitive documents—to read, multiple times, each of the 6.2 million pages of documents produced, before providing them to fully-cleared committee staff conducting the committee’s oversight work. This proved to be a slow and very expensive process.

The CIA started making documents available electronically to the committee staff at the CIA leased facility in mid-2009. The number of pages ran quickly to the thousands, tens of thousands, the hundreds of thousands, and then into the millions. The documents that were provided came without any index, without organizational structure. It was a true “document dump” that our committee staff had to go through and make sense of.

In order to piece together the story of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, the committee staff did two things that will be important as I go on:

First, they asked the CIA to provide an electronic search tool so they could locate specific relevant documents for their search among the CIA-produced documents—just like you would use a search tool on the Internet to locate information.

Second, when the staff found a document that was particularly important or that might be referenced in our final report, they would often print it or make a copy of the file on their computer so they could easily find it again. There are thousands of such documents in the committee’s secure spaces at the CIA facility.

Now, prior removal of documents by CIA. In early 2010, the CIA was continuing to provide documents, and the committee staff was gaining familiarity with the information it had already received.

In May of 2010, the committee staff noticed that [certain] documents that had been provided for the committee’s review were no longer accessible. Staff approached the CIA personnel at the offsite location, who initially denied that documents had been removed. CIA personnel then blamed information technology personnel, who were almost all contractors, for removing the documents themselves without direction or authority. And then the CIA stated that the removal of the documents was ordered by the White House. When the committee approached the White House, the White House denied giving the CIA any such order.

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.

I went up to the White House to raise this issue with the then-White House Counsel, in May 2010. He recognized the severity of the situation, and the grave implications of Executive Branch personnel interfering with an official congressional investigation. The matter was resolved with a renewed commitment from the White House Counsel, and the CIA, that there would be no further unauthorized access to the committee’s network or removal of access to CIA documents already provided to the committee.

On May 17, 2010, the CIA’s then-director of congressional affairs apologized on behalf of the CIA for removing the documents. And that, as far as I was concerned, put the incident aside.

This event was separate from the documents provided that were part of the “Internal Panetta Review,” which occurred later and which I will describe next.

At some point in 2010, committee staff searching the documents that had been made available found draft versions of what is now called the “Internal Panetta Review.”

We believe these documents were written by CIA personnel to summarize and analyze the materials that had been provided to the committee for its review. The Panetta review documents were no more highly classified than other information we had received for our investigation—in fact, the documents appeared to be based on the same information already provided to the committee.

What was unique and interesting about the internal documents was not their classification level, but rather their analysis and acknowledgement of significant CIA wrongdoing.

To be clear, the committee staff did not “hack” into CIA computers to obtain these documents as has been suggested in the press. The documents were identified using the search tool provided by the CIA to search the documents provided to the committee.

We have no way to determine who made the Internal Panetta Review documents available to the committee. Further, we don’t know whether the documents were provided intentionally by the CIA, unintentionally by the CIA, or intentionally by a whistle-blower.

In fact, we know that over the years—on multiple occasions—the staff have asked the CIA about documents made available for our investigation. At times, the CIA has simply been unaware that these specific documents were provided to the committee. And while this is alarming, it is also important to note that more than 6.2 million pages of documents have been provided. This is simply a massive amount of records.

As I described earlier, as part of its standard process for reviewing records, the committee staff printed copies of the Internal Panetta Review and made electronic copies of the committee’s computers at the facility.

The staff did not rely on these Internal Panetta Review documents when drafting the final 6,300-page committee study. But it was significant that the Internal Panetta Review had documented at least some of the very same troubling matters already uncovered by the committee staff – which is not surprising, in that they were looking at the same information.

There is a claim in the press and elsewhere that the markings on these documents should have caused the staff to stop reading them and turn them over to the CIA. I reject that claim completely.

As with many other documents provided to the committee at the CIA facility, some of the Internal Panetta Review documents—some—contained markings indicating that they were “deliberative” and/or “privileged.” This was not especially noteworthy to staff. In fact, CIA has provided thousands of internal documents, to include CIA legal guidance and talking points prepared for the CIA director, some of which were marked as being deliberative or privileged.

Moreover, the CIA has officially provided such documents to the committee here in the Senate. In fact, the CIA’s official June 27, 2013, response to the committee study, which Director Brennan delivered to me personally, is labeled “Deliberative Process Privileged Document.”

We have discussed this with the Senate Legal Counsel who has confirmed that Congress does not recognize these claims of privilege when it comes to documents provided to Congress for our oversight duties.

These were documents provided by the executive branch pursuant to an authorized congressional oversight investigation. So we believe we had every right to review and keep the documents.

There are also claims in the press that the Internal Panetta Review documents, having been created in 2009 and 2010, were outside the date range of the committee’s document request or the terms of the committee study. This too is inaccurate.

The committee’s document requests were not limited in time. In fact, as I have previously announced, the committee study includes significant information on the May 2011 Osama bin Laden operation, which obviously postdated the detention and interrogation program.

At some time after the committee staff identified and reviewed the Internal Panetta Review documents, access to the vast majority of them was removed by the CIA. We believe this happened in 2010 but we have no way of knowing the specifics. Nor do we know why the documents were removed. The staff was focused on reviewing the tens of thousands of new documents that continued to arrive on a regular basis.

Our work continued until December 2012, when the Intelligence Committee approved a 6,300-page committee study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program and sent the report to the executive branch for comment. The CIA provided its response to the study on June 27, 2013.

As CIA Director Brennan has stated, the CIA officially agrees with some of our study. But, as has been reported, the CIA disagrees and disputes important parts of it. And this is important: Some of these important parts that the CIA now disputes in our committee study are clearly acknowledged in the CIA’s own Internal Panetta Review.

To say the least, this is puzzling. How can the CIA’s official response to our study stand factually in conflict with its own Internal Review?

Now, after noting the disparity between the official CIA response to the committee study and the Internal Panetta Review, the committee staff securely transported a printed portion of the draft Internal Panetta Review from the committee’s secure room at the CIA-leased facility to the secure committee spaces in the Hart Senate Office Building.

And let me be clear about this: I mentioned earlier the exchange of letters that Senator Bond and I had with Director Panetta in 2009 over the handling of information for this review. The letters set out a process whereby the committee would provide specific CIA documents to CIA reviewers before bringing them back to our secure offices here on Capitol Hill.

The CIA review was designed specifically to make sure that committee documents available to all staff and members did not include certain kinds of information, most importantly the true names of non-supervisory CIA personnel and the names of specific countries in which the CIA operated detention sites.

We had agreed up front that our report didn’t need to include this information, and so we agreed to redact it from materials leaving the CIA’s facility.

Keeping with the spirit of the agreements, the portion of the Internal Panetta Review at the Hart Building in our safe has been redacted. It does not contain names of non-supervisory CIA personnel or information identifying detention site locations. In other words, our staff did just what the CIA personnel would have done had they reviewed the document.

There are several reasons why the draft summary of the Panetta Review was brought to our secure spaces at the Hart Building.

Let me list them:

The significance of the Internal Review given disparities between it and the June 2013 CIA response to the committee study. The Internal Panetta Review summary now at the secure committee office in the Hart Building is an especially significant document as it corroborates critical information in the committee’s 6,300-page Study that the CIA’s official response either objects to, denies, minimizes, or ignores.

Unlike the official response, these Panetta Review documents were in agreement with the committee’s findings. That’s what makes them so significant and important to protect.

When the Internal Panetta Review documents disappeared from the committee’s computer system, this suggested once again that the CIA had removed documents already provided to the committee, in violation of CIA agreements and White House assurances that the CIA would cease such activities.

As I have detailed, the CIA has previously withheld and destroyed information about its Detention and Interrogation Program, including its decision in 2005 to destroy interrogation videotapes over the objections of the Bush White House and the Director of National Intelligence. Based on the information described above, there was a need to preserve and protect the Internal Panetta Review in the committee’s own secure spaces.

Now, the Relocation of the Internal Panetta Review was lawful and handled in a manner consistent with its classification. No law prevents the relocation of a document in the committee’s possession from a CIA facility to secure committee offices on Capitol Hill. As I mentioned before, the document was handled and transported in a manner consistent with its classification, redacted appropriately, and it remains secured—with restricted access—in committee spaces.

In late 2013, I requested in writing that the CIA provide a final and complete version of the Internal Panetta Review to the committee, as opposed to the partial document the committee currently possesses.

In December, during an open committee hearing, Senator Mark Udall echoed this request. In early January 2014, the CIA informed the committee it would not provide the Internal Panetta Review to the committee, citing the deliberative nature of the document.

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.

As I have described, this is not true. The document was made available to the staff at the offsite facility, and it was located using a CIA-provided search tool running a query of the information provided to the committee pursuant to its investigation.

Director Brennan stated that the CIA’s search had determined that the committee staff had copies of the Internal Panetta Review on the committee’s “staff shared drive” and had accessed them numerous times. He indicated at the meeting that he was going to order further “forensic” investigation of the committee network to learn more about activities of the committee’s oversight staff.

Two days after the meeting, on January 17, I wrote a letter to Director Brennan objecting to any further CIA investigation due to the separation of powers constitutional issues that the search raised. I followed this with a second letter on January 23 to the director, asking 12 specific questions about the CIA’s actions—questions that the CIA has refused to answer.

Some of the questions in my letter related to the full scope of the CIA’s search of our computer network. Other questions related to who had authorized and conducted the search, and what legal basis the CIA claimed gave it authority to conduct the search. Again, the CIA has not provided answers to any of my questions.

My letter also laid out my concern about the legal and constitutional implications of the CIA’s actions. Based on what Director Brennan has informed us, I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution, including the Speech and Debate clause. It may have undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activities or any other government function.

I have asked for an apology and a recognition that this CIA search of computers used by its oversight committee was inappropriate. I have received neither.

Besides the constitutional implications, the CIA’s search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.

Days after the meeting with Director Brennan, the CIA inspector general, David Buckley, learned of the CIA search and began an investigation into CIA’s activities. I have been informed that Mr. Buckley has referred the matter to the Department of Justice given the possibility of a criminal violation by CIA personnel.

Let me note: because the CIA has refused to answer the questions in my January 23 letter, and the CIA inspector general review is ongoing, I have limited information about exactly what the CIA did in conducting its search.

Weeks later, I was also told that after the inspector general referred the CIA’s activities to the Department of Justice, the acting general counsel of the CIA filed a crimes report with the Department of Justice concerning the committee staff’s actions. I have not been provided the specifics of these allegations or been told whether the department has initiated a criminal investigation based on the allegations of the CIA’s acting general counsel.

As I mentioned before, our staff involved in this matter have the appropriate clearances, handled this sensitive material according to established procedures and practice to protect classified information, and were provided access to the Panetta Review by the CIA itself. As a result, there is no legitimate reason to allege to the Justice Department that Senate staff may have committed a crime. I view the acting general counsel’s referral as a potential effort to intimidate this staff—and I am not taking it lightly.

I should note that for most, if not all, of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, the now acting general counsel was a lawyer in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center—the unit within which the CIA managed and carried out this program. From mid-2004 until the official termination of the detention and interrogation program in January 2009, he was the unit’s chief lawyer. He is mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in our study.

And now this individual is sending a crimes report to the Department of Justice on the actions of congressional staff—the same congressional staff who researched and drafted a report that details how CIA officers—including the acting general counsel himself—provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice about the program.

Mr. President, let me say this. All Senators rely on their staff to be their eyes and ears and to carry out our duties. The staff members of the Intelligence Committee are dedicated professionals who are motivated to do what is best for our nation.

The staff members who have been working on this study and this report have devoted years of their lives to it—wading through the horrible details of a CIA program that never, never, never should have existed. They have worked long hours and produced a report unprecedented in its comprehensive attention to detail in the history of the Senate.

They are now being threatened with legal jeopardy, just as the final revisions to the report are being made so that parts of it can be declassified and released to the American people.

Mr. President, I felt that I needed to come to the floor today, to correct the public record and to give the American people the facts about what the dedicated committee staff have been working so hard for the last several years as part of the committee’s investigation.

I also want to reiterate to my colleagues my desire to have all updates to the committee report completed this month and approved for declassification. We’re not going to stop. I intend to move to have the findings, conclusions and the executive summary of the report sent to the president for declassification and release to the American people. The White House has indicated publicly and to me personally that it supports declassification and release.

If the Senate can declassify this report, we will be able to ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted.

But Mr. President, the recent actions that I have just laid out make this a defining moment for the oversight of our Intelligence Community. How Congress responds and how this is resolved will show whether the Intelligence Committee can be effective in monitoring and investigating our nation’s intelligence activities, or whether our work can be thwarted by those we oversee.

I believe it is critical that the committee and the Senate reaffirm our oversight role and our independence under the Constitution of the United States.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Baron von Robber, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 12:38pm

    Dear Sen. Feinstein

    If you don't give a flying fuck about our 4th Amendment rights, we don't care about yours.

    signed,
    Those in your district.

     

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

  2.  
    identicon
    Vel the Enigmatic, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 12:45pm

    Re: Dear Sen. Feinstein

    Bet ya they would delete or burn it upon arrival. Like they burn through our money.

     

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

  3.  
    identicon
    Glen, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 12:47pm

    As noted before, it is pretty hypercritical of Sen Feinstein to react to the way the staffers have been treated when we all are treated the same by the various intelligence agencies. But wow!! The size of the balls on the CIA gotta be huge. I hope(but not expecting)there will be some serious consequences for that agency.

     

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

  4.  
    icon
    Rob McMillin (profile), Mar 11th, 2014 @ 1:11pm

    Re: Repercussions for DiFi?

    Really? You think Emperor Alexander would let her take action against the NSA?

     

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

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 1:15pm

    "I'm curious what kind of "national security" reason the CIA has for spying on the very staffers who were investigating the CIA's torture program?"


    To answer your question. The CIA's power might be reigned back and limited in some way. Such as being forced to comply with our constitutional laws, for example.

    A weakened CIA would make us all "less safe" from "terrorists", and is therefore a "national security" issue.

    See, anything can be justified as a national security issue, when words are stretched beyond any meaning.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    wavettore, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 1:19pm

    A new superpower

    All that is happening in our days is the prelude to enormous changes but even before discussing in regard of the possible remedy one must be clear about how we came to this point recognizing both physiognomy and origin of the threat.

    Since George H. Bush was CIA director, the US secret State agencies had played a double role to finally get to where we are today when every person is constantly monitored by NSA and other agencies not to report the information to the US Government but to feed with all data the embryo of a new superpower still kept hidden.

    In brief, here is the history of how it came to possess all means and to know everything of everyone.
    In 1988 the ex CIA director was elected US president but this one was a president like no other before. His attention quickly turned to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait from where he personally benefited immensely in exchange for the protection of those tyrants and their oil while in the United States instead the president observed his son, Neil, to be the author of the largest robbery of its time, the “Savings and Loans" scandal. After a few years, the next largest robbery in history was Enron that financed the electoral campaign for his other son, George. Once he also became president, the son plotted the most infamous attack on US soil, 9/11, to begin the widest monitoring program ever conceived and to consolidate for 8 years the interest of one family above all.

    In our days, a group of Zionists, like a hidden parallel government, with George Bush still today at the head of secret services in the US, UK and Israel, is the destabilizing force behind most terror events and with classified information at disposal and a private army is plotting what now would seem unthinkable to many. The spokesman for this group in the US Congress is John Mc Cain who reports the given orders weighing on the US administration.

    A World War and chaos everywhere have already been planned so that desperate people will soon invoke a New World Order without even knowing what that is. Not the protests or violence in the streets could ever oppose such threat to the whole Humankind.

    It will take a new Awareness to form one alternative Front to oppose the detailed Zionist Plan which is founded upon the Biblical concept of one "chosen people" and that justifies any mean based on its Belief that Equality does not exist.

    The next War will be inevitable and also come by surprise. It will be the excuse to completely abolish the concept of Equality and all human rights associated with it celebrating the rise of one "chosen people" so to weave Religions with their plot. Like the Robbery of all times in the name of a New World Order which is in fact that Greater State of Israel already described in the Bible.

    http://www.wavevolution.org/en/humanwaves.html

     

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

  7.  
    icon
    Namel3ss (profile), Mar 11th, 2014 @ 1:23pm

    "I'm curious what kind of "national security" reason the CIA has for spying on the very staffers who were investigating the CIA's torture program?"

    The national security of their national asses, that's what.

    Why those idiots in CA keep voting for this dried up old heifer?

     

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

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 1:25pm

    Haven't you heard (from yourself) Feinstein? Metadata is "harmless"!

    Besides, you can't get both security and privacy. Plus, only criminals need privacy. You're not a criminal, are you, Feinstein?

    Stop hating America, Feinstein! Just be a "patriot", and let them spy on you, especially if you have "nothing to hide". You DO have nothing to hide - right?

     

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

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 1:39pm

    It sounds like the CIA is spying on the real enemy.

     

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

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 1:43pm

    i wonder if the 'staffers' or indeed even Feinstein herself will be put on the same hit list as Snowden? after all, they/she has had privileged documents in their/her possession that they were not supposed to have, didn't have the clearance for and must be held for endangering National Security!!

     

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

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 1:46pm

    Re: Re: Repercussions for DiFi?

    Nope, he'd just let a 'secret' slip to someone important that the NYT or whicheverpress he 'likes'. Problem takes care of itself.

     

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

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 2:09pm

    Re:

    It was tried. See the previous article.

     

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

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 2:20pm

    The CIA has forgotten an important fact. That the Oversight Committee has the power to unclassify any document through the power invested into that committee. Should they deem a top secret document to be something the entire nation should know they can revoke that top secret classifation and publish it without fear of being locked up for leaking classifed documents.

    Suddenly when it hits home, it appears Feinstein very much gets why this level of spying is not good for anyone other than the security branches. I would suggest she knew all along it wasn't good but the power it brought her as a sitting member of the Intelligence Committee was more valuable to her than doing what was right.

    Feinstein though her own reactions to her staff being spied on tells you far more than anything she has said in defense of the police state.

     

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

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 3:12pm

    Re:

    Still not taking her seriously as anything less than a spook toady until she engages in retaliatory mass declassifications. Just revealing every last thing about the torture program down to the locations of current black sites would be proportionate. They tried the cover up so they lose the luxury of polite secrecy and get everything revealed.

     

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

  15.  
    icon
    beltorak (profile), Mar 11th, 2014 @ 3:48pm

    Re:

    > I would suggest she knew all along it wasn't good but the power it brought her as a sitting member of the Intelligence Committee was more valuable to her than doing what was right.

    Serious question; what power? The oversight committee was basically lame and had no real power over the spy agencies; what else is there for that? Was she getting money for *coughcough* "serving" on this committee? Special privileges? Was it purely an ego boost? Did holding the chair result in her continual re-elections?

     

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

  16.  
    identicon
    Baba Z., Mar 11th, 2014 @ 3:51pm

    man! I about to start digging a bunker in my yard.
    I'm afraid of my laptop and ipad spying on me.
    I bought one of these new houses with pre-wired everything and I'm afraid to speak loudly in my own home...

     

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

  17.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Mar 11th, 2014 @ 5:16pm

    "whether our work can be thwarted by those we oversee"

    When did you plan on starting that oversight?
    Up until it actually touched you in a tangible way, you were perfectly fine to support what was being done.
    Perhaps it is time for you to leave Washington, because you are so removed from reality that you were unable to see that what they were doing to the people you ostensibly represent is invasive and wrong to them, but when it touched your life it suddenly was a horrible thing.

     

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

  18.  
    icon
    Andrew Norton (profile), Mar 11th, 2014 @ 6:46pm

    How do you like THEM applies, Sen Feinstein?

    Applesauce, Bitch.

     

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

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 7:24pm

    the blind leading the all seeing. I say it's all smoke and mirrors until i see real change.

     

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

  20.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Mar 12th, 2014 @ 3:48am

    Nothing to see here, it's just the CIA overseeing the overseers. We need somebody to oversee the overseers of the overseers. Call the NSA.

     

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

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 6:23am

    To the "Press"

    Will someone in the press PUH-LEASE ask her how she can support spying on ordinary Americans by the NSA and at the SAME TIME be so offended when the spying is done on senators?

    PLEASE?
    Pretty please?
    With sugar on top?

     

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

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 6:55am

     

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

  23.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 12th, 2014 @ 9:15am

    Re: Dear Sen. Feinstein

    I understand the sentiment, but I actually do care about their fourth amendment rights. If the fourth amendment doesn't restrict the government's actions against everybody, then it is powerless to restrict the government's actions against anybody.

     

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

  24.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 12th, 2014 @ 9:16am

    Re: A new superpower

    That was hilarious, thank you.

     

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

  25.  
    identicon
    GEMont, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 4:42pm

    American Justice

    And so it begins.

    The people holding privileged positions in government and finance and industry have finally realized that the criminal surveillance programs they supported because it gave them inside knowledge of other people's affairs, has been secretly turned upon themselves.

    They have realized that all of their clandestine operations, illegal dealings, secret sex escapades and deepest, darkest secrets, are now recorded for posterity somewhere in the Federal Hall of Useful Secrets.

    They are now aware that they too - like their victims - are open to blackmail by the tri-letter agencies of the federal government.

    That they thought they were immune says much about their mindset. It also shows that these are exactly the wrong people to hold such high office and high privilege.

    It should be very interesting to watch the various participants in the global blackmail scam turn on their enablers in the tri-letter agencies and then watch them all retract their claims as the triletter agencies strike back with letters of simple blackmail.

    I must admit, I am very happy to know that the recordings of the once-secret criminal activities and immoral dealings of Feinstein and her Cheerleaders, now threaten their future of feeding at the public tax trough, as it has threatened the livelihoods of so many others among the public for so long.

    However, the very fact that the tri-letter agencies possess the secrets of those in position of political, financial and industrial power, means that regardless of how bad this thing gets - regardless of how much political crime is exposed to the public over the next few years - blackmail by the FBI, CIA, NSA and possibly other, even more secret agencies, will prevent any justice from ever taking place.

    Instead as always, a few low level scapegoats will be sacrificed on the alter of public opinion while the real criminals will receive promotions.

    American Justice.
    Oxymoron.

     

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


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