The head of the Central Intelligence Agency apologized privately to lawmakers on Tuesday after an internal review revealed that CIA employees had secretly monitored, as alleged, the computer usage of certain Senate staffers.
Director John Brennan’s admission this week that members of his agency “acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding” among the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee came months after Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), the chairperson of that panel, complained on the floor of Congress that her staff had been subjected to covert monitoring as they worked on an official investigation into the CIA’s now defunct detention and interrogation practices. That report – a 6,300-page review of tactics employed by the CIA considered by some to be forms of torture – has yet to be made public.
Dean Boyd, a spokesperson for the CIA, told journalists at McClatchy that an investigation into Sen. Feinstein’s allegations led the agency to determine that some degree of wrongdoing did occur, and an additional review is now being undertaken to examine what action, if any, the agency will take.
In March, Sen. Feinstein told reporters that the CIA general counsel’s office was conducting a review of how her committee “investigated allegations of CIA abuse in a Bush-era detention and interrogation program,” and that the probe would assess whether her staffers had at any point removed secret documents from a secure facility outside of Washington, DC while working on that report. On her part, Feinstein said those allegations led her to believe the CIA was secretly monitoring her staff while they worked on the torture report, and said she had “grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the US Constitution.”
“I am deeply dismayed that some members of the Senate have decided to make spurious allegations about CIA actions that are wholly unsupported by the facts,” Brennan, the agency’s director, responded at the time. “I am very confident that the appropriate authorities reviewing this matter will determine where wrongdoing, if any, occurred in either the executive branch or legislative branch.”
Speaking to McClatchy, Boyd said that Brennan on Tuesday briefed Feinstein and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia), the vice chairman of the intelligence committee, on the findings of the internal review.
“The director . . . apologized to them for such actions by CIA officers as described in the OIG (Office of Inspector General Report),” Boyd said in a statement.
Next, the spokesperson added, the findings will be reviewed by an accountability board chaired by retired Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, which will then “conduct interviews as needed and provide the director with recommendations that, depending on its findings, could include potential disciplinary measures and/or steps to address systemic issues.”
“Recognizing the importance of this matter and the need to resolve it in a way that preserved the crucial equities of both branches, Director Brennan asked the CIA Office of Inspector General to examine the actions of CIA personnel,” Boyd added.
According to McClatchy, though, Feinstein’s staff is still being scrutinized. The Senate Sergeant at Arms office, Jonathan Landay and Ali Watkins reported, is still investigating whether or not the Intelligence Committee staff removed classified documents without authorization.
Earlier this month, the Department of Justice confirmed that, after a careful review, it failed to find sufficient evidence to further carry a criminal investigation into either the CIA’s spying or the allegations of document stealing.