CIA Cleared CIA for Spying on the Senate Staff

Photo of author

( — January 16, 2015)  — According to a Wednesday report from an ‘accountability board’, the monitoring of the computers Senate staff used while probing the intelligence agency’s torture program acted in good faith and committed no wrongdoing, the officers Board concluded. The review board included former White House counsel Robert Bauer, former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana), and three senior CIA officials the report did not name.

 Three out of five committee members are from the CIA, which no one suspected it would be the conflict of interest if they had to investigate themselves. The board concluded in the review that there was simply a misunderstanding and that the CIA believed it could search the computers to protect national security, Arstechnica’s Law & Disorder article said.  

“The Board determined that while an informal understanding existed that SSCI work product should be protected, no common understanding existed about the roles and responsibilities in the case of a suspected security incident,” according to its highly redacted report [PDF] released Wednesday.

In addition, the Board review said that under the National Security Act, the CIA has a legal duty and is obligated to monitor the computers being used by staffers of the Senate Select Committee on ‘torture report’, “for the presence of Agency documents to which SSCI staff should not have access.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) chaired the intelligence committee last year when the breaches occurred, said the decision “was made to search committee computers, and someone should be found responsible for those actions.”

“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.” Feinstein said during an impassioned March speech on the Senate floor.

The intelligence committee was investigating the CIA’s torture program and needed access to CIA documents. While investigating, their computers have been monitored by the CIA via the RDINet system used to provide access to millions of sensitive documents.

Reportedly, the CIA searched the staffers’ computers, even reading e-mails. According to the Board, however, they were just concerned about potential breach. According to the report, the CIA was actually searching for a ‘leaker’ in order to secure some sensitive documents from unauthorized publishing.    

The CIA found that a staffer directly navigated “to the file path containing the unauthorized documents and copied them to another SSCI accessible location,” the officers Board report said.

Meanwhile, the Senate released its report on CIA brutal ‘enhanced interrogation’, saying among others, the agency exaggerated how effective its methods were.