CIA says it doesn’t spy on the Senate


3/11/14 10:09 AM EDT Updated: 3/11/14 1:11 PM EDT

“I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution,” Feinstein charged. “It may have undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective Congressional oversight of intelligence activities….I have asked for an apology and a recognition that this CIA search of computers used by its oversight committee was inappropriate.”

Making her first detailed remarks on the issue, Feinstein said Tuesday she was compelled to take the floor to answer “inaccurate information” that has been spreading about actions the committee’s staff took with CIA documents detailing an internal agency review ordered by former CIA Director Leon Panetta in 2009.

Feinstein said contrary to the reports, the documents in question were willingly provided before the CIA attempted to revoke staffers’ access and inhibit the committee’s ability to investigate the now-defunct interrogation and detention program.

After an agreement with Panetta in 2009 to provide a way for Senate staffers to review what Feinstein called a “document dump,” Feinstein said staffers noticed in 2010 that access to previously accessible files had been revoked.

“In short, this was the exact sort of CIA interference in our investigation that we sought to avoid at the outset,” Feinstein said, saying she raised the issue with the White House counsel. “He recognized the severity of the situation and the grave implications of executive branch personnel interfering with an official congressional investigation. The matter was resolved with a renewed commitment from the White House counsel and the CIA that there would be no further unauthorized access to the committee’s network or removal of access to CIA documents already provided to the committee.”

In regards to press reports that Senate staffers should not have had access to the documents, Feinstein said, “I reject that claim completely,” and she slammed the CIA’s apparent accessing of the congressional network and what she called attempts to “intimidate” Congress.

“The CIA’s unauthorized search of the committee computers was followed by an allegation which we now have seen repeated anonymously in the press, that the committee staff had somehow obtained the document through unauthorized or criminal means, perhaps to include hacking into the CIA’s computer network,” Feinstein said. “As I have described, this is not true. The document was made available to the staff at the offsite facility and it was located using a CIA-provided search tool, running a query of the information provided to the committee pursuant to its investigation.”

Feinstein acknowledged that by taking a copy of the CIA’s internal study, intelligence committee staffers violated an agreement with the CIA not to remove documents without prior clearance from the agency.

“There was a need to preserve and protect the internal Panetta review in the committee’s own secure spaces,” she argued. “The relocation of the internal Panetta review was lawful and handled in a manner consistent with its classification. No law prevents the relocation of a document in the committee’s possession from a CIA facility to secure committee offices on Capitol Hill.”

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