CIA Director Tries To Release His Side Of The Senate Spying Scandal; Actually Confirms Feinstein's Accusations

from the nice-try dept

Yesterday, after Dianne Feinstein went public with the details of the CIA spying on Senate Intelligence Committee staffers who were compiling a supposedly "devastating" report on the CIA's torture program, CIA Director John Brennan (who has been fighting hard against the release of the report) gave a non-denial denial. Later, he sent an "unclassified" memo to all CIA staffers which is being reported as an attempt to boost morale within the Agency.

However, along with that letter to staff, Brennan also (and more importantly) released his January letter to Feinstein following the in-person meeting the two had had concerning the spying allegations. This document is really Brennan trying to tell spin his side of the story. In his telling, this is entirely about the CIA's belief that there had been a security leak. Brennan notes that Feinstein had asked him to provide the full internal "Panetta review" of the same documents that the CIA had handed over to the Senate staffers, and which we now know more or less confirms their findings (and shows that the CIA -- Brennan in particular -- likely lied to the Senate in response to the Senate report). However, later comments from the Senate Intelligence Committee (Mark Udall in particular) made Brennan and others recognize that the Committee had already seen the report (they hadn't -- they'd seen a draft of it) and the CIA didn't believe that was appropriate, leading (he claims) to the search of the Intelligence Committee's walled off network to try to figure out how the "security breach" had happened.
As I relayed to you and Vice Chairman Chambliss during our I5 January meeting, I recently received information suggesting that sensitive CIA documents that were the subject of a pending request from the Committee may have been improperly obtained and/or retained on the SSCI staff side of a CIA local area network, which was set up exclusively for the Committee's RDI review and which contains highly classified information. Consequently, I asked for a meeting with you and the Vice Chairman as soon as possible to share that information and to discuss the need for a review of the system in order to assess what happened. As we know, both branches have taken great care to establish an accommodation regarding the Committee's access to Executive branch information on the RDI program, and we need to ensure that what is shared is as agreed between the branches. At the same time, and most importantly, if the integrity of our network is flawed, we must address the security problem immediately.

During our 15 January meeting, I explained how it came to our attention that these documents were on the SSCI staff side of the network. As I indicated, recent statements made by Committee staff suggested they had in their possession a document that you requested in a 26 November 2013 letter. In your correspondence, you asked for "several summary documents" from what you termed an "internal review" of the CIA RDI program initiated by Director Panetta that purportedly came to conclusions similar to those contained in the Committee's study on the RDI program. Senator Udall made a similar reference to, and a request for, these materials during the open hearing on Caroline Krass's nomination to be the CIA's General Counsel. Senator Udall repeated his request for these documents in a 6 January 2014 letter that he wrote to the President. In response, I explained to both you and Senator Udall that these requests raised significant Executive branch confidentiality interests and outlined the reasons why we could not turn over sensitive, deliberative, pre-decisional CIA material. These documents were not created as part of the program that is the subject of the Committee's oversight, but rather were written in connection with the CIA's response to the oversight inquiry. They include a banner making clear that they are privileged, deliberative, pre-decisional CIA documents, to include attorney- client and attorney work product. The Executive branch has long had substantial separation of powers concerns about congressional access to this kind of material.

CIA maintains a log of all materials provided to the Committee through established protocols, and these documents do not appear in that log, nor were they found in an audit of CIA's side of the system for all materials provided to SSCI through established protocols. Because we were concerned that there may be a breach or vulnerability in the system for housing highly classified documents, CIA conducted a limited review to determine whether these files were located on the SSCI side of the CIA network and reviewed audit data to determine whether anyone had accessed the files, which would have been unauthorized. The technical personnel conducting the audit review were asked to undertake it only if it could be done without searching audit data relating to other files on the SSCI side of CIA's network. That review by IT personnel determined that the documents that you and Senator Udall were requesting appeared to already be on the SSCI staff side of CIA's local area network and had been accessed by staff. Only completion of the security review will answer how SSCI staff came into possession of the documents. After sharing this information with you and explaining that I did not know how the materials would have appeared on the SSCI staff side of the network, I requested that you return any copies of these highly sensitive CIA documents located either in the Committee reading room at the CIA facility or in the Committee's own offices. You instructed your staff director to collect and provide to you any copies of the documents. I informed you that I had directed CIA staff to suspend any further inquiry into this matter until I could speak with you.
Of course, as Feinstein pointed out in her speech, the document which Brennan seems to think the Senate staffers must have grabbed illegally was actually given to them directly by the CIA. And, to be clear, this letter actually more or less confirms what Feinstein claimed despite Brennan's bogus denial. The specific issue was that Brennan had the CIA scan the Senate staffer's supposedly private network to determine if they had access to this document in the CIA's supposed search for a security breach. Here's the key admission:
Because we were concerned that there may be a breach or vulnerability in the system for housing highly classified documents, CIA conducted a limited review to determine whether these files were located on the SSCI side of the CIA network and reviewed audit data to determine whether anyone had accessed the files, which would have been unauthorized.
While Brennan is arguing that this is all perfectly reasonable in search of the security breach the CIA believed had occurred, that's not even close to accurate. Given the role of the Senate Intelligence Committee, being in charge of oversight of the CIA, and more specifically, these staffers directly investigating the CIA's torture program and producing a report highly critical of the CIA, Brennan had to know that any search of the staffers' network would be a massive breach. His attempt to cover it all up and make it sound reasonable actually does the opposite. If Brennan was truly concerned, it seems that the appropriate move would have been to have gone to Feinstein before conducting that search and raising his concerns.

Meanwhile, many in the press are parroting the false claim that Brennan denied Feinstein's accusations, when his actual words confirm it.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 1:19pm

    Still waiting for the torture report to come out.

     

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

  2.  
    icon
    weneedhelp (profile), Mar 12th, 2014 @ 1:25pm

    Those pesky blogs

    This... is exactly why the MSM is loosing readers to blogs. If you want the truth... at all... you have to go on the internet... Period... end of story... case closed... mission accomplished. (Too much? :)

     

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

  3.  
    icon
    AricTheRed (profile), Mar 12th, 2014 @ 1:26pm

    If this were a just world we live in I'd now expect to see...

    James Clapper, Keith Alexander, and John Brennan sharing a cell at a federal penitentiary for lying to congress and The People.

    That would be a use of my federal taxes I am ready to support!

    I'm not gonna hold my breath however.

     

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

  4.  
    icon
    weneedhelp (profile), Mar 12th, 2014 @ 1:26pm

    Re:

    You mean the "enhanced interrogation" report.

     

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

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 1:34pm

    Quick question: how can an oversight committee carry out it duties id it cannot see all documents?
    Another Question: if what they see should be controlled, surely the review should by an independent expert, and not the organization they are meant to be overseeing.

     

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

  6.  
    identicon
    Trevor, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 1:40pm

    Wait, what?

    "These documents were not created as part of the program that is the subject of the Committee's oversight, but rather were written in connection with the CIA's response to the oversight inquiry."

    There's a difference?

    Committee oversees Projects X Y and Z.
    Committee asks for documents pertaining to Project X
    CIA creates document re: request for Project X
    ???
    That document isn't under the purview of the Committee re: Project X

    k.

     

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

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 1:50pm

    Another line of inquiry: why is basically every pdf generated by the federal government 1) in courier and 2) crooked? Is there a federal regulation that all government documents must be produced on a typewriter and then scanned?

     

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

  8.  
    icon
    toyotabedzrock (profile), Mar 12th, 2014 @ 1:50pm

    It seems to me obvious that for effective oversight the committee should have full access without the CIA being able to audit them.

     

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

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 2:02pm

    i have to ask, how many more agencies are there that have liars do this degree as leaders? regardless of what work they are supposedly doing, unless they are honest with those in government that are on their side and trying, on their behalf, to justify what they are doing, who will actually believe anything they say? that could prove then to be very costly!!

     

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

  10.  
    icon
    AricTheRed (profile), Mar 12th, 2014 @ 2:03pm

    Re:

    Yah, and if they (CIA) feel that the oversight folks need an audit just have the FBI do it, cause you know they are going to conduct it in a totally professional way and not use any underhanded or illegal tactics, like parallel construction, enhanced interrogation, warrantless searches, not mirandizing anyone in custody before questioning them, or anything else, 'cause you know, they're "professional".

     

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

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 2:10pm

    Re:

    Some overworked drone with the misfortune of having a scanner on his desk was tasked with scanning it. The boss tasking him said it needed to be done immediately and didn't care about what said drone was doing at the time.

    Peeved drone does a shoddy job because screw it.

    Boss has been operating like this for a long time and has seen much shoddier work. He therefore accepts shoddy work as above average.

     

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

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 2:27pm

    Who exactly does he think he is?

    Look when your agency is being investigated for criminal activity by the entity who's very purpose is oversight, you don't get to say what documents are and are not appropriate for them to look at. You can argue that a piece of evidence isn't relevant when they try to use it against you, but you don't get to tell them what they can and cannot collect. You can even argue that they collected something illegally to try to get it thrown out, but that is only after they have collected it in the first place. Criminal investigations don't work like that and as the head of the CIA you damned well know that.

     

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

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 2:34pm

    Re: Who exactly does he think he is?

    I mean imagine a cop that goes to a house to investigate allegations of domestic violence and finds meth laying everywhere. Then imagine the subject telling the cop that he's not allowed to look at the meth because that is not related to the reason he was there. This is essentially the argument that he is making except that of course the document IS directly related to the same matter that they were investigating.

     

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

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 2:38pm

    Re:

    i have to ask, how many more agencies are there that have liars do this degree as leaders?

    Easy, all of them...

     

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

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 2:41pm

    Re: Re:

    More difficult question. How many of them are any good at it? So far, Clapper, Alexander, and Brennan all sucked at it royally.

     

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

  16.  
    identicon
    DogBreath, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 2:42pm

    Re:

    Quick question: how can an oversight committee carry out it duties id it cannot see all documents?

    A: It can't if the stonewalling and obfuscation is properly working (as designed).


    Another Question: if what they see should be controlled, surely the review should by an independent expert, and not the organization they are meant to be overseeing.

    A: See the previous answer as to how that would work out.



    Well, as Brennan clearly stated in his release:

    "They include a banner making clear that they are privileged, deliberative, pre-decisional CIA documents, to include attorney- client and attorney work product.

    The Executive branch has long had substantial separation of powers concerns about congressional access to this kind of material."



    Lesson for today: Involve an attorney in every thing you do and it becomes "privileged information", and the bigger you are the more "privilege" you can get away with.

    Then if you and your attorney can't figure out a way to make what you are doing/did legal, just destroy the evidence connecting you to the crime and don't worry about anything you worked on with your attorney because it's "privileged" or in the case of the government, "classified".

     

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

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 3:26pm

    Re: Re:

    ""They include a banner making clear that they are privileged, deliberative, pre-decisional CIA documents, to include attorney- client and attorney work product."

    That's what a consigliere is for, after all.

     

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

  18.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Mar 12th, 2014 @ 6:36pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    How many of them are in jail or have even been charged with anything?

    Answer: None.

    They don't have to be good at lying, the system is so corrupted at this point that they don't have to be.

     

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

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 7:43pm

    Re:

    Well of course it is crooked. They are physiologically incapable of reading anything non-crooked, much less understand it.

     

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

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 7:44pm

    Re: Re: Who exactly does he think he is?

    So essentially they're saying that they can't look at his bruised wife and him holding the belt because it isn't why they're there even though that is exactly why they're there?

     

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

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2014 @ 5:34am

    Re: Re: Re: Who exactly does he think he is?

    The appropriate response was to tell him that "with all due respect, we will be the judge of what documents we consider to be relevant to the investigation."

     

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

  22.  
    identicon
    Dan G Difino, Mar 13th, 2014 @ 6:36am

    Usurping a Government

    When you are part of a lie on that scale, it is insane how far you will go to protect the truth from coming out.

     

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

  23.  
    icon
    art guerrilla (profile), Mar 13th, 2014 @ 6:51am

    Re: Re:

    not that you may not be 100% correct about low-man/woman-on-the-totem-pole scanning the dox, but -geez louise- *most* all programs these days either have built-in PDF print drivers, so you don't have to 'scan' anything, simply print to PDF...

    again, NOT that the gummint doesn't have some retarded process or 'official' method which avoids any sane method of getting PDFs out the door, but it isn't necessary...

     

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

  24.  
    identicon
    Dauug, Mar 13th, 2014 @ 7:36am

    Re: Who exactly does he think he is?

    This is all for show so they can run the most discerning of American peoples' bewilderment through their supercomputers to continue analyzing how much they can continue getting away with.. Its way beyond belief now. Its most possible that even George Washington is rolling around in his grave, and from almost every record written about him shows he was a bastard to work for.

     

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

  25.  
    icon
    JustMe (profile), Mar 13th, 2014 @ 7:54am

    Bad script today

    Mike, what's up with the new (?) script today? I see that a script from postrelease is throwing errors for me today and
    keeps horking the browser:

    ####script type="text/javascript" src="http://a.postrelease.com/serve/load.js?async=true"####


    Cheers

     

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

  26.  
    identicon
    reader23, Mar 13th, 2014 @ 12:49pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Who exactly does he think he is?

    Actually, there are serious separation of powers issues here. But if you've already decided who's in the wrong without any facts -- as both TechDirt and the wingnut commentators have done -- I guess these long-running questions don't matter. The Senate is not, by the way, above the law. It has to follow the same rules for classified information as any other part of government. I know people on the Hill tend to think of themselves as immune to such pesky things, but they should be held to the same standards as every other fed.

     

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

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2014 @ 1:31pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Who exactly does he think he is?

    I didn't say the Senate was above the law. I said that they were in charge of the investigation. The accused doesn't get to tell the investigator what is or is not appropriate for them to look at. Sure, if they try to use something that isn't appropriate, then they can be called on that, but that is only AFTER they have overstepped their bounds. That is how criminal investigations work.

     

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

  28.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 14th, 2014 @ 9:46am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Who exactly does he think he is?

    "The Senate is not, by the way, above the law."

    True, that privilege is reserved for the intelligence agencies.

     

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


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