CIA says its employees wrongly searched Senate investigators’ computers
CIA employees improperly searched computers used by Senate investigators involved in a multiyear probe of the agency’s use of harsh interrogation measures on terrorism suspects, according to the findings of an internal agency inquiry that prompted CIA Director John Brennan to apologize to lawmakers this week.
The embarrassing admission by the agency stems from a dispute that erupted in public earlier this year when the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee traded accusations of illicit spying and security breaches – allegations that led to an extraordinary feud between Brennan and the Senate panel, which oversees his agency.
The conflict centered on special computer network that the CIA set up at a secret office in Northern Virginia to enable committee aides to examine the agency’s internal records of its interrogation program, which involved the use of waterboarding and other brutal techniques before President Obama shut it down in 2009.
A summary of the CIA inspector general’s report obtained by the Washington Post cited 10 agency employees, including two lawyers and three computer specialists, who had searched the committee’s files and read some of the staff’s emails on computers that were supposed to be exclusively for committee investigators.
The document also criticizes the computer team members for a “lack of candor about their activities” when they were questioned by investigators working for CIA Inspector General David Buckley.
The development comes as the CIA is bracing for the long-awaited release of a committee report that is said to be sharply critical of the agency, finding that it exaggerated the effectiveness of interrogation measures and repeatedly misled members of Congress and the executive branch. The report is expected to be released within weeks.