Yesterday, the chairperson of the Senate Intelligence committee, Sen, Dianne Feinstein took to Senate floor for forty minutes to blast the CIA for spying on members of the Senate Intelligence Committee while they were reviewing documents at CIA headquarters. That wasn’t entirely what set her off her tirade. It was the CIA’s counter-charge, made through acting CIA general counsel Robert Eatinger, that her staff had illegally accessed and removed the document.
“Our staff involved in this matter have the appropriate clearances, handled this sensitive material according to established procedures and practice to protect classified information, and were provided access to the Panetta Review by the CIA itself,” she said.
“As a result, there is no legitimate reason to allege to the Justice Department that Senate staff may have committed a crime. I view the acting counsel general’s referral as a potential effort to intimidate this staff, and I am not taking this lightly.” [..]
Feinstein’s fighting words were in stark contrast to her role as a champion of NSA surveillance. In most cases, Feinstein has served as an example of how badly oversight over the intelligence community has failed, serving as an accessory to the very kind of excesses her committee was established, in the 1970s, to prevent.
But torture has been the exception for Feinstein, who in stark contrast to President Obama has demanded an authoritative, official accounting of what happened during the Bush years.
Feinstein made it clear that she is eager for her committee’s report to become public. “If the Senate can declassify this report, we will be able to insure than an un-American, brutal program in interrogation and distension will never again be permitted.”
The CIA had apparently deleted access to documents that it had previously given the Senate Staffers
In May of 2010, the committee staff noticed that [certain] documents that had been provided for the committee’s review were no longer accessible. Staff approached the CIA personnel at the offsite location, who initially denied that documents had been removed. CIA personnel then blamed information technology personnel, who were almost all contractors, for removing the documents themselves without direction or authority. And then the CIA stated that the removal of the documents was ordered by the White House. When the committee approached the White House, the White House denied giving the CIA any such order.
After a series of meetings, I learned that on two occasions, CIA personnel electronically removed committee access to CIA documents after providing them to the committee. This included roughly 870 documents or pages of documents that were removed in February 2010, and secondly roughly another 50 were removed in mid-May 2010.
This was done without the knowledge or approval of committee members or staff, and in violation of our written agreements. Further, this type of behavior would not have been possible had the CIA allowed the committee to conduct the review of documents here in the Senate. In short, this was the exact sort of CIA interference in our investigation that we sought to avoid at the outset.
But what really got Sen. Feinstein fired up was the CIA’s lawyer Eatinger, himself, and his actions at the agency during the Bush administration:
“I should note that for most if not all of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, the now-acting general counsel was a lawyer in the CIA’s counterterrorism center, the unit within which the CIA managed and carried out this program. From mid-2004 until the official termination of the detention and interrogation program in January 2009, he was the unit’s chief lawyer. He is mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in our study.
“And now, this individual is sending a crimes report to the Department of Justice on the actions of Congressional staff – the same Congressional staff who researched and drafted a report that details how CIA officers, including the acting general counsel himself, provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice about the program.“
Eatinger was the overseer of the CIA’s detention and torture program, who was implicated in the illegal destruction of the torture evidence, and is the focus of the committee’s investigation. He is now in charge of investigating himself and attempting to intimidate the Senate oversight committee and a United States Senator.
Feinstein described Eatinger’s key role as the Counterterrorism Center’s chief lawyer . . . Some things CTC lawyers did were:
- Approved the use of sleep deprivation before DOJ considered the question
- Altered the record of the original briefing to Nancy Pelosi and Porter Goss
- Used a John Yoo freelanced memo as the basis of advice to CIA on torture
- Collaborated with John Yoo to write a “Legal Principles” document that authorized otherwise unauthorized torture techniques
Lawyers probably associated with CTC also lied about the treatment of Hassan Ghul in 2004.
Eatinger also contributed to a CIA cover-up attempt in a key State Secrets case.
To add insult to injury, CIA Director John Brennan immediately went on the offensive:
Well, first of all, we are not in any way, shape or form trying to thwart this report’s progression, release. As I said in my remarks, we want this behind us. We know that the committee has invested a lot of time, money and effort into this report, and I know that they’re determined to put it forward.
We have engaged with them extensively over the last year. We have had officers sit down with them and go over their report and point out where we believe there are factual errors or errors in judgment or assessments. So we are not trying at all to prevent its release.
As far as the allegations of, you know, CIA hacking into, you know, Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth. I mean, we wouldn’t do that. I mean, that’s – that’s just beyond the – you know, the scope of reason in terms of what we would do.
This review that was done by the committee was done at a facility where CIA had a responsibility to make sure that they had the computer wherewithal in order to carry out their responsibilities, and so if there was any inappropriate actions that were taken related to that review, either by CIA or by the SSCI staff, I’ll be the first one to say we need to get to the bottom of it.
And if I did something wrong, I will go to the president, and I will explain to him exactly what I did, and what the findings were. And he is the one who can ask me to stay or to go.
The allegations of spying are a distraction. This is all about torture and covering up the war crimes.
What is it they say? It’s not the crime that gets them, it’s the cover-up.