After CIA Angrily Denied Spying On Senate, CIA Admits It Did And Apologizes

from the incredible dept

Here's a surprise. An internal investigation by the CIA has determined -- just as Senator Dianne Feinstein charged -- that the CIA illegally hacked into the network of Senate Intelligence Committee staffers in order to spy on what they were doing with regards to a report on the CIA's torture program. They did this despite an earlier instance of a similar problem after which the CIA promised it would not touch the Senate Intelligence Committee network any more.

Of course, as you may recall after Feinstein angrily denounced the CIA's actions, and explained them in detail, CIA director John Brennan angrily denied it -- though as we noted, his angry denial really confirmed nearly all of the pertinent details. Still, he specifically stated:
"When the facts come out on this, I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong."
He also told reporters:
"Let me assure you the CIA was in no way spying on [the Senate Intelligence Committee] or the Senate."
Things got even more acrimonious when both sides reported each other to the Justice Department for possible criminal investigation. The CIA insisted that the Senate staffers mishandled classified information, while the Senate claimed that the CIA illegally hacked into their network. Once again, the Senate side of the story made the most sense -- because it had happened before. As you may recall from Feinstein's original explanation:
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.
After that, the CIA agreed that it would not touch the network in any way. But it did. As Brennan himself explained:
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.
Either way, the DOJ just recently decided to pursue neither claim, but the CIA's moves today more or less admit guilt:
Findings of the investigation by the CIA Inspector General’s Office “include a judgment that some CIA employees acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding reached between SSCI (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) and the CIA in 2009,” CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said in a statement.

The statement represented an admission to charges by the panel’s chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that the CIA intruded into the computers her staff used to compile the soon-to-be released report on the agency’s use of harsh interrogation methods on suspected terrorists in secret overseas prisons during the Bush administration.

CIA Director John Brennan briefed Feinstein and the committee’s vice chairman, Saxby Chambliss, R-GA, on the CIA inspector general’s findings and apologized to them during a meeting on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Boyd said.

“The director . . . apologized to them for such actions by CIA officers as described in the OIG (Office of Inspector General Report),” he said.
That's a pretty different tune than "When the facts come out" all those people "will be proved wrong," huh?

What's incredible about this is that it comes very soon before the redacted version of the CIA torture report that the staffers were working on is expected to be released. Brennan has been the leading voice criticizing the report, but his credibility is sliding increasingly downhill. The news today shows that he appears to have directly lied to the press and the Senate concerning this situation. The more cynical among you will claim that you just assume he's always lying, but that's unfair. For whatever it's worth, the intelligence community is very good about not technically lying, but just misleading people. Here, he was strongly making claims that were clearly just flat out not true.

Others in the Senate are calling for a thorough investigation of Brennan, and it's entirely possible this could result in Brennan being forced to resign. At this point, especially with the report coming out, it seems like the CIA could use a fresh start.

Either way, given that the CIA is now effectively admitting to the charges, it does seem noteworthy to highlight the DOJ's decision not to do anything. After all, as Chris Soghoian points out, if this same bit of hacking were done by a 19 year old hactivist, he'd be rotting in jail, and there would be all sorts of condemnations about what a horrible person he was.
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Filed Under: cia, dianne feinstein, john brennan, senate, senate intelligence committee, spying, torture report

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jul 2014 @ 11:10am

    the agency’s use of harsh interrogation methods on suspected terrorists in secret overseas prisons

    What a ridiculous, roundabout way of avoiding calling it "secret torture of not-so-guilty people"

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