The Central Intelligence Agency admitted on Thursday to spying on members of Congress and their staff.
An internal report from the CIA Inspector General’s Office concluded “that some CIA employees acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding reached between SSCI (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) and the CIA in 2009,” a CIA spokesman said in a statement on Thursday.
The report comes months after Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein leveled bombshell allegations against the Agency. In March, Feinstein “accused the CIA of secretly removing documents, searching computers used by the committee and attempting to intimidate congressional investigators by requesting an FBI inquiry of their conduct.”
Feinstein argued that the CIA’s actions were illegal and “violated the separation-of-powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution.”
Feinstein’s Select Committee on Intelligence was investigating the CIA for wrongdoing in relation to its Bush-era torture program. The CIA used brutal interrogation methods at overseas “black sites” including waterboarding, which simulates drowning. The Senate’s report shows that over ten detainees were “unaccounted for” and presumed to be dead after being handed over to foreign intelligence agencies.
“The Senate report says more than two dozen of these men designated low-value had, in fact, been wrongfully detained and rendered to other countries on the basis of intelligence obtained from CIA captives under torture and from information shared with CIA officials by other governments, both of which turned out to be false,” Al Jazeera America reports. “The report allegedly singles out a top CIA official for botching a handful of renditions and outlines agency efforts to cover up the mistakes.”
Members of Congress appeared more enraged at the CIA spying on the legislative body than on the agency’s history of human rights violations.
“Heads should roll, people should go to jail, if it’s true. … I’m going to get briefed on it. If it is, the legislative branch should declare war on the CIA, if it’s true,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said in March.
The CIA initially denied the spying allegations.
“As far as the allegations of CIA hacking into Senate computers — nothing could be further from the truth. We wouldn’t do that. I mean that’s, that’s, that’s just beyond the scope of reason,” CIA Director John Brennan said at the time.
Feinstein was pleased to see that the Inspector General report settled the record. “The investigation confirmed what I said on the Senate floor in March — CIA personnel inappropriately searched Senate Intelligence Committee computers in violation of an agreement we had reached, and I believe in violation of the constitutional separation of powers,” Feinstein said today.
Brennan delivered an apology to Feinstein and ranking Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss during a meeting on Thursday.
The apology has not prevented members of Congress from calling on Brennan’s resignation. Senator Mark Udall, a Democrat from Colorado up for re-election this year, said that there must be accountability for the actions.
“I have no choice but to call for the resignation of CIA director John Brennan,” Udall said after hearing about the inspector general’s report. “The CIA unconstitutionally spied on Congress by hacking into Senate intelligence committee computers. This grave misconduct is not only illegal, but it violates the US constitution’s requirement of separation of powers. These offenses, along with other errors in judgment by some at the CIA, demonstrate a tremendous failure of leadership, and there must be consequences.”
The White House has said that Brennan has no intention of resigning.
Brennan has been a lightning rod of controversy. He has previously vigorously defended the administration’s drone policy that has potentially killed thousands of civilians, the targeted assassination of American citizens, and domestic spying.
Brennan took the helm at the CIA in 2013 after serving as Deputy National Security Advisor to President Obama since 2009 and the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center under George W. Bush.
Some authors have noted the hypocrisy of Congress’s outrage at being spied on themselves but not caring — or outwardly supporting it — when it is the American people that are spied on through the once-secret NSA domestic spying programs. Feinstein and Graham have both defended the NSA spying programs.