CIA vs. Senate: What’s all the fuss about?
A look at the clash between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Central Intelligence Agency.
A quarrel between the CIA and the Senate that’s been rumbling beneath the surface for years burst into full view Tuesday when Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., criticized the agency on the Senate floor.
A look at the unfolding dispute:
Torture report: The Senate report at the center of the heated public dispute between Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and the CIA is a detailed investigation of the agency’s rendition, detention and interrogation program the George W. Bush administration started after 9/11, which ended in 2009.
Agency review: The still-classified report of 6,300 pages was approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee in December 2012 and sent to the CIA for comment.
Controversial findings: Feinstein has said the program’s abuses included beating a detainee in Afghanistan, who later died in custody and using the interrogation technique known as waterboarding in ways the CIA’s legal counsel had not authorized.
Poor results: The report concluded that the rendition, detention and interrogation produced little intelligence of value, and it claimed the CIA exaggerated its worth to the White House and Congress. The CIA has challenged that in a detailed, 100-page-plus rebuttal, according to former senior intelligence officials.
Cooperation issue: The current dispute centers on whether the CIA impeded the Senate’s investigation, and whether the Senate improperly obtained or handled CIA documents along the way. The agency handed over 6.2 million pages of unindexed material to Senate investigators, who plowed through it on CIA-supplied computers set up at a secure site in northern Virginia to keep the CIA from meddling in the Senate’s investigation and its computer files, and to keep Senate investigators from seeing things they shouldn’t. At one point Senate investigators noticed that hundreds of pages of documents had vanished, setting off a round off protests and apologies to fix the problem.
The Panetta papers: A review by CIA director Leon Panetta reportedly acknowledged “significant CIA wrongdoing,” according to Feinstein. Questions have swirled about how Senate investigators got ahold of the Panetta documents, and whether they should have immediately given them back, because they were marked “deliberative” and “privileged” material. According to Feinstein, some of the same findings that the agency disputed in its response to the report had been agreed with by the agency in the Panetta document.
Acrimony rises: Feinstein in 2014 accuses the CIA of improperly spying on the Senate. The CIA, anxious about the Panetta document, informs Feinstein that it searched the CIA-provided computers used by the Senate investigators. The CIA search even poked into the Senate committee’s “stand-alone computer system” that was to be separate from the CIA network. Current Director John Brennan said Tuesday “The CIA was in no way spying” on the committee or the Senate. “We weren’t trying to block anything.”
Next step: The Justice Department is being asked to investigate potential wrongdoing on both sides.
The Associated Press