CIA Improperly Accessed Senate Computers, Agency Finds

CIA Improperly Accessed Senate Computers, Agency Finds

By Jonathan S. Landay and Ali Watkins, McClatchy Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — CIA employees improperly accessed computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to compile a report on the agency’s now defunct detention and interrogation program, an internal CIA investigation has determined.

Findings of the investigation by the CIA Inspector General’s Office “include a judgment that some CIA employees acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding reached between SSCI (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) and the CIA in 2009,” CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said in a statement.

The statement represented an admission to charges by the panel’s chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), that the CIA intruded into the computers her staff used to compile the soon-to-be released report on the agency’s use of harsh interrogation methods on suspected terrorists in secret overseas prisons during the Bush administration.

CIA Director John Brennan briefed Feinstein and the committee’s vice chairman, Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), on the CIA inspector general’s findings and apologized to them during a meeting on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Boyd said.

“The director . . . apologized to them for such actions by CIA officers as described in the OIG (Office of Inspector General Report),” he said.

Brennan has decided to submit the findings for review by an accountability board chaired by retired Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, who served on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Boyd.

“This board will review the OIG report, 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,” said Boyd.

The tone of the announcement sharply contrasts with the unprecedented battle that erupted over the issue between the spy agency and its congressional overseers and appears to represent an attempt to ease what have been seriously icy relations.

In a contentious Senate floor speech in March, Feinstein asserted that the CIA may have violated the law and the Constitution by monitoring her staff’s computers and blocking access to documents.

The allegations and a separate CIA charge that the committee staff removed classified documents from a secret CIA facility in northern Virginia without authorization were referred to the Justice Department for investigation.

The department earlier this month announced that it had found insufficient evidence on which to proceed with criminal probes into either matter. The Senate Sergeant at Arms office, the Senate’s chief law enforcement agency, is still looking into the allegation that the committee staff removed classified documents without authorization.

The CIA required the committee staff to use CIA computers in the top-secret agency facility in northern Virginia to review more than 6 million pages of classified documents related to the detention and interrogation program.

An agreement between the agency and the committee prohibited CIA personnel from accessing a data base that was for use only by the panel staff.

In January, Brennan confronted Feinstein behind closed doors over a committee request for top-secret material that the CIA determined the panel staff already had obtained. He contended that her staff may have improperly accessed the material.

In her speech in March, Feinstein asserted that her staff found the material in the database and that the CIA had discovered the staff had it by monitoring their computers in violation of the user agreement.

“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 said.

The committee report, which is being reviewed at the White House following a declassification process at the CIA, found that the use of the harsh interrogation techniques produced little valuable intelligence, according to classified conclusions obtained by McClatchy .

It also determined that the agency misled the Bush administration, the Congress, and the public on its results, according to the conclusions.

Former Bush administration officials, the CIA, and those who oversaw the program, which ran from 2001 until 2006, have vigorously disputed those findings.

AFP Photo/Mark Wilson

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