The Central Intelligence Agency admitted today that it has spent much of the last year spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee, confirming that no one, not even some of the country's most powerful politicians, are safe from snooping by America's intelligence community.
When the original allegations came to light back in March, CIA Director John Brennan said it was "beyond the scope of reason" that the CIA would hack into Senate-owned computers. Also appearing beyond the scope of reason? Expecting a senior US intelligence official to tell the truth while on the record.
The CIA Inspector General's report just confirmed what many in the Senate and media already suspected: Over the last year, the CIA has systematically hacked into the intelligence committee's computers in order to obstruct the release of a Senate report detailing the CIA's torture program overseas. The report is still classified, but portions of it were obtained by McClatchy.
So, what exactly happened? The CIA accidentally dumped some more documents—allegedly some of the most important ones detailing torture—onto a computer that both the CIA and Senate had access to. The CIA deleted the documents, but not before a Senate staffer had copied them onto a secure Senate computer. Back in March, Senate Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein accused the CIA of breaking into and searching committee computers while looking for the document.
"Based on what Director Brennan has informed us, 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 said at the time. "Besides the constitutional implications, the CIA's search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance."
"Nothing could be further from the truth," Brennan said of Feinstein's allegations. "We wouldn't do that. That's beyond the scope of reason."
Well, the Inspector General report confirms that was a lie.
The report, still classified "include[s] a judgment that some CIA employees acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding reached between [the Senate Intelligence Committee] and the CIA in 2009."
In other words, the CIA spied on the Senate.
Sen. Ron Wyden, a member of the intelligence committee and one of the senators who has regularly spoken out about the surveillance state over the past several years (which some say isn't enough), said that the CIA's actions are "absolutely unacceptable in a democracy."
"The CIA Inspector General has confirmed what senators have been saying all along: The CIA conducted an unauthorized search of Senate files, and attempted to have Senate staff prosecuted for doing their jobs," Wyden said. "Director Brennan's claims to the contrary were simply not true."
So, what does Wyden want? What does Feinstein want? They want Brennan fired and jailed, right?
"What's needed now," Wyden said, "is a public apology from Director Brennan to staff and the committee, a full accounting of how this occurred and a commitment there will be no further attempts to undermine Congressional oversight of CIA activities."
Oh, alright then. Meanwhile, the CIA has confirmed that Brennan will not resign, Congress continues to drag its feet on curbing NSA surveillance, the torture report the Senate has been working on for years remains classified, and the union still stands. At least lawmakers get to go on a five-week vacation starting tomorrow.