Not satisfied with spying on politicians from other countries, it seems that the CIA was snooping on members of the Senate Intelligence Committee which had been sent to investigate its antics.
The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein is furious and accused the agency of breaking laws and breaching constitutional principles in an alleged effort to undermine the panel’s multi-year investigation of a controversial torture programme.
Feinstein said that the CIA secretly removed documents, searched computers used by the committee and attempted to intimidate congressional investigators by having the FBI arrest them.
Feinstein described the escalating conflict as a “defining moment” for Congress’s role in overseeing the nation’s intelligence agencies and cited “grave concerns” that the CIA had “violated the separation-of-powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution.”
All this is happening after the committee nears completion of a 6,000-page report that is expected to serve as a scathing historical record of the agency’s use of waterboarding and other brutal interrogation methods on terrorism suspects held at secret CIA prisons overseas after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Feinstein said her committee would soon deliver the report to the White House and push for declassification of a document that lays bare “the horrible details of the CIA program that never, never, never should have existed.”
The CIA and the committee are at odds over the report’s conclusions about the effectiveness of the interrogation program and the way the CIA handled the investigation.
The CIA set up a secret facility in Northern Virginia with computers where committee investigators were promised unfettered access to millions of operational cables, executive memos and other files on the interrogation programme.
But it seems there was a row over whether agency employees or committee staff members sabotaged the committee’s efforts from the outset, loading a massive amount of files on computers with no index, structure or ability to search.
Over a period of years, investigators pored over more than 6.2 million classified records furnished by the CIA, using a search tool that agency technical experts agreed to install.
But the CIA said the committee gained access to a set of documents that the agency never intended to share. They claim the politicians much have done something to get those documents. A security firewall was breached. They figured out a work-around to get it.
Feinstein was careful not to say precisely how they were obtained. “We don’t know whether the documents were provided intentionally by the CIA, unintentionally by the CIA, or intentionally by a whistleblower.
In other words, the CIA is jolly upset that its cunning plan to hamper the investigation by dumping huge amounts of paperwork on the committee failed because a whistle-blower showed members of the committee what was important.
It referred the matter to the Department of Justice (DoJ) effectively accusing the investigating committee of spying on the US. Feinstein points out that the referral was made by one of the CIA executives who happens to appear rather a lot in its investigation – one Robert Eatinger who is the CIA’s acting general counsel.
Eatinger previously served as the top lawyer for the department that ran the CIA’s secret prisons, and who “is mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in the study.” So we guess he has no reason to shut the politicians up by threatening to have them arrested.