Justice Dept. Declines To Step Into Dispute Between CIA And Senators

The Justice Department has declined to bring criminal charges against anyone at the CIA or the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a dispute over access to sensitive materials on enhanced interrogations. The power struggle relates to a long-running Senate probe over the mistreatment of detainees after Sept. 11.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Now an update to a rift between the CIA and the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee. Committee staff had been locked in a struggle with the CIA director over access to sensitive information about the reported mistreatment of detainees after 9/11. And earlier this year, CIA lawyers asked prosecutors to investigate whether any laws were broken. NPR's Carrie Johnson reports the Justice Department has declined to bring criminal charges against either side.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: The Justice Department says it reviewed allegations the CIA and Senate aides threw at each other, but prosecutors didn't find enough evidence to open a criminal investigation, let alone bring charges against anyone on either side. That decision represents a muted end to a dispute that had the intelligence community at odds against one of its staunchest allies, California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein took to the well of the Senate in March to deliver a blistering message to CIA. She'd had enough of efforts to derail her investigation of the agency's detention and interrogation practices. Feinstein was furious the CIA had asked prosecutors to investigate her aides who spent years poring over chilling accounts of detainee abuse. And she accused the CIA of wrongdoing by hacking into a computer to spy on her research.

SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN: In short, this was the exact sort of CIA interference in our investigation that we sought to avoid at the outset.

JOHNSON: CIA director John Brennan said the agency did no such thing.

JOHN BRENNAN: As far as the allegations of, you know, CIA hacking into, you know, Senate computers - nothing could be further from the truth. We wouldn't do that. I mean that's just beyond the scope of reason.

JOHNSON: Prosecutors demonstrated little interest in getting involved in the dispute. And a CIA spokesman, today, declined comment, perhaps hoping the issue would finally fade away. But there's another big shoe to drop. The White House is reviewing the summary and conclusions of Feinstein's committee, and the president says he wants to make them public. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden says the administration is looking at security implications for U.S. interests overseas. For her part, Senator Feinstein says she's pleased with the Justice Department move, and she hopes it will allow the intelligence committee to focus on what really matters - releasing its findings so the, quote, "un-American, brutal program will never again be instituted." Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington.

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