from the lies-catch-up-to-you dept
"Let me assure you the CIA was in no way spying on [the Senate Intelligence Committee] or the Senate."Except, back in July, the CIA's Inspector General put out a report that not only confirmed the story, but showed that the spying was even worse than initially detailed. At the time, Brennan apparently apologized to Feinstein, but things have heated up recently, after Brennan further refused to reveal to the Senate who authorized the spying.
Now Brennan is continuing to try to spin the story, angrily hitting back at the reports out there. First up, he tries to spin that quote above by claiming the context was different:
“This is part of the mischaracterizations. The Council on Foreign Relations, [moderator] Andrea Mitchell, said, did in fact CIA officers hack into the Senate computers to thwart the investigation on potential interrogation? Thwart the investigation, hacking in – no, we did not, and I said that’s beyond the scope of reason."But, no, what he actually said is that "the CIA was in no way spying on [the Senate Intelligence Committee] or the Senate." It wasn't about thwarting an investigation. He made a definitive statement about the spying. And that was a lie.
From there, he tries to spin the spying away as well, with his new go to line about those computers being CIA computers, so they had every right to search them:
“When the inspector general determined that based on the common understanding between the CIA and the [committee] about this arrangement of computers, that our officers had improperly accessed it, even though these were CIA facilities, CIA computers, and CIA had responsibility for the IT integrity of the system, I apologized to them for any improper access that was done, despite the fact that we didn’t have a memorandum of agreement.Except, of course, if you read what Feinstein actually said, she indicates that there was an agreement, and the agreement meant the CIA wouldn't touch those machines.
“What I’ve said to the committee and others is that if I’ve done something wrong, I’ll stand up and admit it, but I’m not going to take, you know, the allegations about hacking and monitoring and spying and whatever else, no. … When I think about that incident, I think there are things on both sides that need to be addressed.”
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.So, first off, Brennan appears to be lying that there was no agreement concerning that. But he's also misleading in other ways, since it was just a few months ago that the CIA itself insisted that it wasn't allowed to search those computers.
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.”
Senator Ron Wyden points our attention to a declaration from Neal Higgins, director of the CIA's "Office of Congressional Affairs" in a FOIA lawsuit brought by the ACLU demanding the CIA release the Senate Intelligence Committee's terror report. In that declaration, Higgins insists that the works on those computers are not the CIA's and the CIA cannot access them, contradicting the new story from Brennan's latest spin attempt. In fact, Higgins confirms Feinstein's claim that there was a clear agreement between the Senate and the CIA concerning these computers.
One key principle necessary to this inter-branch accommodation, and a condition upon which SSCI insisted, was that the materials created by SSCI personnel on this segregated shared drive would not become “agency records” even though this work product was being created and stored on a CIA computer system. Specifically, in a 2 June 2009 letter from the SSCI Chairman and Vice Chairman to the CIA Director, the Committee expressly stated that the SSCI’s work product, including “draft and final recommendations, reports or other materials generated by Committee staff or Members, are the property of the Committee” and “remain congressional records in their entirety.”So, we have both the Senate and the CIA admitting that there was an agreement that these systems were under Senate control and that both would treat the content on those machines as being the Senate's property.
The SSCI further provided that the “disposition and control over these records, even after the completion of the Committee’s review, lies exclusively with the Committee.” As such, the Committee stated that “these records are not CIA records under the Freedom of Information Act or any other law” and that “[t]he CIA may not integrate these records into its records filing systems, and may not disseminate or copy them, or use them for any purpose without prior written authorization from the Committee.” Finally, the SSCI requested that in response to a FOIA request seeking these records, the CIA should “respond to the request or demand based upon the understanding that these are congressional, not CIA, records.”
In other words, Brennan is now lying again to try to rewrite history concerning the original lie. That's fairly impressive, but as Senator Wyden notes, it just highlights the culture of lying that has become pervasive at the CIA. You lie. Then you get caught and you apologize, but a few months later you lie again to pretend you never lied originally. But the facts here are clear. The CIA spied on the Senate, despite an agreement between the two that what's on these computers was to be considered the Senate's alone, even if the equipment was set up by the CIA. Then the CIA got caught. And now Brennan is lying again in pretending there was no agreement, even though someone who works for him already admitted that there was just such an agreement.
But, of course, in this administration, apparently flat-out lying is not grounds for losing your job.