Inquiry Shows CIA Spied On Senate Panel That Was Investigating The Agency

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CIA director John Brennan apologized to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who had accused the CIA of spying on her committee's computers. Brennan at first denied it.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Now the latest on a conflict between the CIA and Congress. A Senate committee has been investigating whether the CIA tortured terrorism suspects in the months after 9/11. In March, the chairman of that committee accused the CIA of trying to thwart her investigation by spying on committee staff. Then CIA director, John Brennan, dismissed the charge as, quote, "beyond the scope of reason." Now he's apologized. NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Back in March, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein publically accused the CIA of snooping on her staff's computers. They were being used at a supposedly secure site in northern Virginia where staffers sifted through millions of internal CIA documents. One of those documents was a memo prepared for former CIA director Leon Panetta about waterboarding and other harsh interrogation practices that the CIA used after the 9/11 attacks - a reportedly damning document - that the agency had not wanted those staffers to see. Feinstein said the CIA had searched her staffers computers for the so-called Panetta review - a move she said possibly violated the Constitution.

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SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN: How this will be resolved will show whether the Intelligence Committee can be effective in monitoring and investigating our nation's intelligence activities or whether our work can be thwarted by those we oversee.

WELNA: That same day, CIA director Brennan insisted the CIA would not break into Senate computers.

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JOHN BRENNAN: When the facts come out on this, I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong.

WELNA: In the end, it was Brennan who was proved wrong. A probe of the matter carried out by the CIA Inspector General's office concluded that CIA employees had in fact improperly searched the Intelligence Committee's computers. A CIA spokesman said yesterday that Brennan told Feinstein about that finding and apologized.

That apology comes just as a long executive summary of the Intelligence Committee's so-called torture report is set to be released. The CIA was first given a chance to review and redact the classified report on its controversial activities. So parts of it will likely be blacked out. Those who've read the report say it concludes very little useful information was gained from interrogation techniques that are now banned. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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