from the code-is-law dept
Leopold's article goes into great depth on the subject and is well-worth reading in its entirety. One of the many, many details worth noting is that the CIA's "firewall" between it and Senate staffers wasn't really anything of the sort. A Google-powered custom search function allowed staffers to search CIA documents, but only the documents the CIA wanted them to see. The problem was that the search didn't work correctly. Keyword searches were returning documents the CIA hadn't approved for Senate perusal. This was how the hidden Panetta Report was discovered.
The CIA claimed Senate staffers had abused their privileges by accessing and downloading documents the agency hadn't meant to make available. But the blame was misplaced. The search "appliance" configuration itself was faulty, and had been for years. And, from there, the CIA decided it was okay to spy on the Senate staffers' work, raising questions about the separation of powers.
"In November 2012, the RDI team learned of a vulnerability with the Google appliance, related to configuration settings that had been in place since the initial installation in November 2009," the OIG's report says. "[The Office of Inspector General] reviewed an April 2013 email between members of the RDINet IT staff detailing the existing settings, which indicated an access control deficiency for search results. The RDI IT team updated the Google appliance in April 2013 to reflect this change. Prior to this update, the settings provided to the [Office of Inspector General] showed that the Google appliance was not configured to enforce access rights or search permissions within RDINet and its holdings."A problem the CIA was aware of but had never bothered to fix was now being portrayed as a breach of trust (at best) by the Senate staffers compiling the Torture Report. Brennan knew about the misconfigured search tool but still went after Feinstein and Senate staffers, accusing them of "hacking" the CIA's system and making off with a purloined copy of the Panetta Review.
Weaver explained that the Cyber Blue Team concluded the Google appliance "wasn't enforcing permissions properly, and revealing accessible locations for the [CIA] files."
Considering the Panetta Review was the former CIA director's own investigation into the CIA's torture programs, one would assume these documents would be highly relevant to the task at hand -- the compilation of the torture report. But the findings contained in it were so toxic the CIA immediately began burying the documents using every opaque agency's favorite hiding place: the oft-abused "deliberative documents" exemption.
US officials told VICE News that the Panetta Review was shut down for one reason: the CIA team conducting it discovered damning inconsistencies in reports agency officials made to Congress about the efficacy of the program, and horrific details about the way detainees were treated. These revelations by the CIA's own employees contradicted agency officials who had continued to publicly defend the program's value. The internal reports the Panetta Review team wrote, US officials told VICE News, were so troubling that a decision was made by agency lawyers to mark them as "deliberative" draft documents, thereby protecting them from disclosure via FOIA.Leopold's article is a fascinating study of CIA deception, duplicity and retaliatory abuse. The only way the CIA could have made the aftermath of the Torture Report's release worse was to do all the things it actually did. It made false accusations against a Senate oversight committee. It made blatantly false claims about Senate staff and their "hacking." It stabbed its own Inspector General in the back, publicly impugning him and his findings. It performed an "internal investigation" that managed to "uncover" only the wrongdoing of others. The only act of contrition in this whole debacle went unperformed when CIA head John Brennan chose to toss his apology to the Senate in the nearest file cabinet. The CIA may have had a chance to salvage a small part of its reputation, but instead attempted to bluster its way back to respectability. And, in doing so, lost any respect it had remaining.