A report by the CIA inspector general allegedly shows that the agency consulted the White House before directing officers to spy on Senate Intelligence Committee staffers investigating the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program.
The inspector general’s report – which was completed in July but only released Wednesday – reveals a Memorandum for the Record written by an agency lawyer, which says that CIA Director John Brennan spoke with the White House Chief of Staff about how sensitive internal documents (the so-called Panetta Review) had wound up in the Senate investigator’s hands, the Huffington Post reported.
The memo’s author cautions the director that speaking with the White House further could be viewed later as the White House interfering in the CIA’s surveillance on Senate staffers.
CIA director John Brennan’s alleged consultation with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough also came before it was revealed to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), then chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, that the agency was keeping tabs on the torture investigation.
Feinstein said in March 2014 that the CIA’s computer search on Senate investigators likely violated the constitutional separation of powers, and that the CIA made some documents that were previously provided inaccessible. She also stated that the removal of the documents was ordered by the White House, adding that when the committee approached the White House, it denied giving the CIA any such order.
“We have no way to determine who made the Internal Panetta Review documents available to the committee,” she said. “Further, we don’t know whether the documents were provided intentionally by the CIA, unintentionally by the CIA, or intentionally by a whistle-blower.”
The Panetta Review was a series of more than 40 draft documents related to the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, and contained classified information derived from sensitive sources and methods.
Reportedly, the inspector general report adds that two lawyers and three IT personnel sifted through a walled-off hard drive on the Senate’s side of a shared computer network and determined that the documents did exist on the Senate staffer’s side. The lawyer’s memo said Brennan ordered the team to “pursue all available options” to determine how Senate investigators had accessed the material, a fact Brennan denies. He says he only asked lawyers how staff had obtained the internal CIA material.
The White House declined to comment when the Huffington Post contacted them about allegations in the inspector general’s report, as did the CIA.
Earlier this week, a CIA accountability board said the agency did not do anything wrong when it searched investigators’ files. The panel found that the CIA made a “mistake,” but its behavior “did not reflect malfeasance, bad faith, or the intention to gain improper access to SSCI [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence] confidential, deliberative material.”