A strange internal war between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee has broken out into the open, as members of Congress complain that they were being spied on by the CIA, prompting an investigation by the CIA inspector general.
The dispute, which was first reported by the New York Times, stems from the Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the CIA’s controversial detention and interrogation program begun under the Bush administration. The committee produced a 6,000-page report, prepared over the course of four years at a cost of more than $40 million, that apparently is a “withering indictment” of the Bush administration program and, according to the Times, “details many instances when CIA officials misled Congress, the White House and the public about the value of the agency’s brutal interrogation methods, including waterboarding.”
The CIA’s use of these methods came under increasing scrutiny in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks, when the Bush administration seemed to believe it had the right to use any methods necessary to fight the war on terrorism.
Last June, CIA Director John O. Brennan responded to the Senate report with his own lengthy rebuttal — a 122-page memo challenging the contents of the Senate report and its conclusion that the interrogation methods yielded little valuable intelligence. In December, according to the Times, Senator Mark Udall (D-Colorado) revealed that the Senate Intelligence Committee had learned of an internal CIA study that was “consistent with the Intelligence Committee’s report” and “conflicts with the official CIA response to the committee’s report.”
The CIA officials, surprised that the Senate found out about its internal report, accused the Intelligence Committee of somehow getting unauthorized access to agency databases. Government officials told the Times that the CIA proceeded to gain access to computer networks used by the committee to carry out its investigation, apparently in an effort to find out how the committee staffers knew about internal CIA documents.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California and chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, confirmed the matter on Tuesday when she told the Times the CIA had begun an internal review.
“There is an I.G. investigation,” she said.
When the Times asked her about the tension between the committee and the spy agency it oversees, she said, “Our oversight role will prevail.”
Udall sent a letter to President Obama expressing his displeasure with the CIA actions.
“As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the committee in relation to the internal CIA review, and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the committee’s oversight responsibilities and for our democracy,” the letter said, with no details about the dispute.
When he first became president, Obama ended the controversial CIA detention program as one of his first acts in the Oval Office, denouncing the interrogation methods as illegal torture.