CIA admits improper searches of Senate computers

U.S. Politics -

The CIA has for the first time admitted that some of its officers searched computers belonging to the Senate Intelligence Committee, and did so improperly.

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The CIA's inspector general has determined that agency officers acted improperly when searching computers belonging to the Senate Intelligence Committee. CIA Director John Brennan has apologized to the committee. Brennan has convened a panel that will investigate the officers responsible and discipline them if necessary.

"The department carefully reviewed the matters referred to us and did not find sufficient evidence to warrant a criminal investigation." Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr, Justice Department spokesman

On July 10, McClatchy reported that the U.S. Justice Department had decided not to pursue allegations that the CIA spied on the Senate Intelligence Committee or that committee staff slipped classified documents from a secure agency facility.

The request for an investigation came after Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) wrote a letter to President Obama on March 4 saying "the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action" against the Senate Intelligence Committee review of the CIA. The letter said it was "troubling" for oversight and democracy.

The CIA insisted Intelligence Committee staff use computers in a secure room in the agency's headquarters to review millions of documents. Senator Feinstein says the CIA searched Intelligence Committee computers after staffers removed documents from CIA computers.

"The CIA's decision to access the resources and work product of the legislative branch without permission is absolutely indefensible, regardless of the context. This action has serious separation of powers implications." Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)

On March 19 Reid sent a letter informing Attorney General Eric Holder and CIA Director John Brennan that he ordered the Senate sergeant-at-arms to examine Senate Intelligence Committee computers. He also criticized a "patently absurd" CIA allegation that Senate staffers hacked into CIA computers.

"I have grave concerns that the CIA search may have well violated the separations of power…I have asked for an apology … but have not gotten a response." Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), head of Senate Intelligence Committee

Feinstein said in a speech on the Senate floor on March 11 that the CIA may have breached several federal laws and a presidential executive order that bars the agency from domestic spying.

"Nothing could be further from the truth, we wouldn't do that." CIA director John Brennan

Within hours of Feinstein's accusation, the director of the CIA flatly denied that the agency had hacked the Intelligence Committee's computers. The CIA has referred the issue to the Justice Dept. Attorney General Holder has not said if the Justice Dept. will investigate CIA or Senate employees.

The Senate Intelligence Committee completed a four-year, $40 million, 6,300-page report on the CIA's controversial secret detention and interrogation program. The report has not been released. Committee members have publicly said that the CIA misled the government about the use of torture and its effectiveness.

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