Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, came out swinging this morning on the upper chamber's floor, accusing the CIA of violating federal law—and likely the Fourth Amendment—by secretly removing documents from a stand-alone computer network used in a congressional investigation of a controversial Bush-era interrogation program. The Washington Post with more:
She confirmed that an internal agency investigation of the action has been referred to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution. And she said that the CIA appears to have violated the Fourth Amendment, which bars unreasonable searches and seizures, as well as various federal laws and a presidential executive order that prevents the agency from conducting domestic searches and surveillance. She has sought an apology and recognition that the CIA search of the committee’s computers was inappropriate, she said. "I have received neither," she added. ...
Through press reports, officials alleged that the CIA had searched computers intended to be used solely by the panel as part of its investigation. The searches, officials said, were conducted in an effort to determine how committee staff members had gained access to a draft version of an internal agency review of its controversial interrogation program.
CIA Director John Brennan quickly denied Feinstein's allegations that his agency had covertly searched the computer system, saying at an off-the-Hill event Tuesday morning that "nothing could be further from the truth" and that "we wouldn't do that."
Feinstein is known as one of the most vocal backers of the intelligence community in the Senate, a reputation that made this morning's comments all the more surprising. They are sure to escalate a dispute that had been simmering slightly under the radar for weeks concerning the documents used in the review that the CIA has suggested were taken without its permission. (Feinstein, of course, maintains that her committee was entitled to them.)
The Intelligence review in question occurred in 2009 and was focused on the CIA program best known for utilizing waterboarding in an attempt to elicit information from terrorism suspects held at secret prisons overseas. To date, the details of that report have remained officially under wraps but U.S. officials who have spoken to the press on background say that it shows that the CIA misled Congress, the White House, and the Justice Department, all while overstating the program's success before President Obama ended it in 2009. (More background on that here.)