Stacked CIA Panel Clears CIA of Wrongdoing in Hacking of Senate Computers

Friday, January 16, 2015
John Brennan (AP photo)

In what amounts to the fox announcing it did nothing wrong while guarding the hen house, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has concluded its own people were not at fault for spying on a Senate investigation of the CIA’s torture program from last decade.


During a lengthy probe of the CIA’s controversial program, the Senate Intelligence Committee reviewed CIA files with the agency’s permission. However, in the course of the Senate committee’s work, several CIA officials searched the files being used by Senate staffers.


The controversy prompted the CIA’s top man, John Brennan, to organize a panel to determine whether his agency had acted improperly.


Brennan stacked the five-member panel with three senior CIA officers.


A fourth member was Robert F. Bauer, who served as White House counsel to President Barack Obama and who has gone out of his way to protect the CIA from any wrongdoing associated with the torture program.


The only impartial member was its chair, former Democratic U.S. Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana.


The panel concluded in its report (pdf) that the five CIA officials (along with two attorneys and three IT staffers) who interfered with the Senate investigation “had acted in good faith during an episode marked by confusion and poor communication, and should not be punished,” The New York Times reported.


In their 38-page report commissioned by CIA chief Brennan, the panel members concluded that Brennan had been unaware that his team would be using intrusive methods to investigate how the Senate committee gained access to the CIA’s internal classified report on the torture program (the “Panetta Review”), in spite of Brennan having instructed an agency lawyer to “use whatever means necessary” to do it. The panel called it a misunderstanding which, they said, coupled with confusion over the rules for using the computer network, led to the CIA’s breach of the Senate investigation.


The Brennan panel even went so far as to laud the CIA investigators for “striving to maintain the sanctity of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee's work product”—even as it acknowledged that the CIA stole Senate documents and violated an agreement regarding the use of the computer network.


The CIA panel’s report reached the exact opposite conclusion of the CIA’s inspector general, who previously said the five officers were wrong to search the files used by the Senate committee. The CIA panel’s determination effectively overturned the CIA IG’s findings.


The committee’s chair, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), said she was “disappointed that no one at the C.I.A. will be held accountable.”


“The decision was made to search committee computers, and someone should be found responsible for those actions,” she said in a statement.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

C.I.A. Officers Are Cleared in Senate Computer Search (by Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo, New York Times)

CIA Board Clears Agents of Spying on Senate (by William Dotinga, Courthouse News Service)

Panel: The CIA Didn't Spy on the US Senate — But the Senate Stole Documents From the CIA (by Jason Leopold, Vice News)

Final Report of the Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation Network Agency Accountability Board (Central Intelligence Agency) (pdf)

CIA Admits it Spied on Senate Intelligence Committee and Lied about It (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

CIA Spied on Senate Committee Investigating CIA (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)


Abe 9 years ago
You missed the point. The Department of Justice looked into this and found no cause for going after the CIA. Once that was done the CIA took a look to see while there was no reason for prosecution...should there be administrative sanctions. They they brought in outsiders -- and made the chair of the group former Senator Bayh. And that group said -- no sanctions warranted. Hardly fox guarding the hen house. Meanwhile -- how are the accountability boards coming for the Senate staffers who reportedly mishandled the documents? Oh - they don't have one?

Leave a comment