Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The chief of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has apologized to senators who were spied on by CIA staffs while they were reviewing the agency’s harsh interrogation techniques on detained 9/11 suspects.
CIA Director John O. Brennan apologized to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) on Tuesday while briefing the senators on the CIA inspector general’s findings on the alleged hacking of the committee’s computers.
The IG’s report said CIA employees improperly searched computers used by the committee’s staffs to review classified files on interrogations of al-Qaeda prisoners, according to a statement from the CIA released on Tuesday.
Some CIA employees acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding between the agency and the committee about access to the network the latter used to share documents, CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said in the statement.
Brennan’s apology was an about-face to his March defiance of Feinstein’s accusations that CIA staffs accessed a computer network established in 2009 for committee staff to review classified CIA materials related to the agency’s controversial “enhanced interrogation” techniques, including waterboarding,, an offshoot of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S.
“When the facts come out on this, I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong,” Brennan said at the time.
The CIA set up the network at a secret office in Northern Virginia in 2009 to enable committee aides to examine the said records. The computer system was supposed to be accessible only to committee investigators. The committee later found that documents from the computers were removed by CIA employees. The removed records pertain to a secret CIA internal report on the interrogation program and it was used by the committee as basis for concluding that interrogation techniques were abused.
The CIA’s justification of the unauthorized access was that they were trying to discover how athe committee staffs obtained the said secret files. The CIA also threatened to ask the FBI to investigate the committee staffs.
Feinstein said the search of her staff’s computers was “in violation of the constitutional separation of powers.” Brennan defended the CIA’s actions.
The CIA chief said he would set up an internal accountability board to review the IG’s findings. Meanwhile, the committee’s report on the interrogation review is to be released to the public soon.