CIA ‘Searched Intelligence Committee Network’

Senator Dianne Feinstein goes on the offensive, as CIA denies accessing intelligence committee’s network

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the head of a US intelligence committee looking into the detention and interrogation programme of the CIA, has claimed the intelligence agency accessed the committee’s network and prevented it from viewing certain files.

The CIA had actually provided the committee with the systems required to peruse millions of CIA files as part of the investigation, which were segregated from the agency’s own network.

This was done with cooperation from the former director of the CIA Leon Panetta in 2009. “It was this computer network that, notwithstanding our agreement with Director Panetta, was searched by the CIA this past January,” Feinstein said.

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Despite concerns amongst the committee, the CIA had recruited a contractor to sift through the 6.2 million pages of documents it was to provide for the investigation. The CIA was also asked to provide a search tool to Feinstein’s team, which it did, whilst committee members were allowed to save files to their machines.

However, in 2010, it became apparent certain documents were no longer accessible, according to Feinstein.

“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,” Feinstein said.

“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.”

The White House and CIA agreed nothing like this would be allowed to happen again.

Later that year, committee staff found documents containing apparent acknowledgement of significant CIA wrongdoing, but they did not hack the CIA network as reports had suggested, according to Feinstein. They were simply on the same network workers had been given permission to access, she said.

Those documents were part of what became known as the Internal Panetta Review, which Feinstein requested be provided in full. In January this year, the CIA declined to provide it and then it allegedly carried out a search of the committee’s machines.

“This search involved not only a search of documents provided to the committee by the CIA, but also a search of the ‘stand alone’ and ‘walled-off’ committee network drive containing the committee’s own internal work product and communications,” she added.

“I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution, including the Speech and Debate clause. It may have undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activities or any other government function.

“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.”

CIA Director John Brennan has reportedly denied the allegations.

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