The chief of the Central Intelligence Agency on Friday apologised for the United States’ spy agency’s surveillance of computers used by lawmakers and their staffers involved in investigating the organisation’s harsh interrogation techniques.
In a statement, the CIA said its employees had “acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding reached” between the agency and lawmakers in 2009, when a Senate committee started an investigation into the CIA’s harsh interrogation techniques.
Top senators were fuming over report of CIA spying over them, which was reported by the CIA Inspector General. “This is appalling and deeply threatening to the system of checks and balances,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.
“Congress has a constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight and the CIA’s actions were an attempt to undermine that responsibility,” he added. “What is even more disturbing is that the unauthorised CIA actions come in the context of the Senate’s effort to complete a report of the CIA’s interrogation program.”
He further went on to add, “The deeply troubling CIA actions show to what lengths some in the CIA are willing to stoop in order to prevent the report’s release and to avoid accountability.”
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman, Dianne Feinstein, who was briefed Tuesday by CIA Inspector General David Buckley on the results of an IG investigation, said the CIA personnel inappropriately searched Senate Intelligence Committee computers in violation of an agreement they had reached.
“CIA Director (John) Brennan apologised for these actions and submitted the IG report to an accountability board. These are positive first steps. This IG report corrects the record and it is my understanding that a declassified report will be made available to the public shortly,” Feinstein said.
Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, said he is appalled that the CIA searched the computers of Senate staffers who were working to shed light on “a very dark chapter” in the nation’s history.
“Congressional oversight of the executive branch, without fear of interference or intimidation, is fundamental to our nation’s founding principle of the separation of powers. The CIA’s misconduct threatens the institution of the Senate and its role in ensuring the proper oversight of our government. The CIA Director owes the Senate and the American people an explanation of how this was allowed to occur,” he said.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that Brennan has taken the further step of appointing an accountability board to review the situation, review the conduct of these individuals who are involved, and if necessary ensure that they are properly held accountable for that conduct.