CIA

How to Get Feinstein to Support the Fourth Amendment – Snoop and Intimidate Her Staff

Senator exposes CIA surveillance of committee responsible for oversight over CIA

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Hey, senator, maybe imagine how the rest of us feel?
C-Span

Sen. Dianne Feinstein – generally a lover and defender of our growing surveillance state – took to the Senate floor this morning to confirm and clarify a story that came out last week: The CIA snooped on a computer network Congress was using to investigate CIA abuses.

At the heart of this conflict between the executive and legislative branches is a report Congressional staffers have put together said to be extremely critical of the brutal interrogation methods (torture) used by the CIA under the Bush administration. The massive 6,300-page inquiry is classified, but many are pressuring the Department of Justice and White House for its release.

On the Senate floor, Feinstein said that she had not been responding to previous media reports, but felt that she had to come forward now due to inaccurate information being pushed out. To bulletpoint her 50-minute speech:

  • When President Barack Obama came into office and Feinstein became chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, her committee began an inquiry into "enhanced interrogation" methods used by the CIA.
  • Then-CIA Director Leon Panetta offered to set up a computer system at the CIA for congressional staffers to access CIA documents to work on this report. The only CIA personnel who were to have access to this computer system would be IT personnel, and they were not allowed to share information with anybody else in the CIA.
  • CIA personnel searched the computer this January anyway and in one previous incident in 2010.
  • In 2010, staffers using this system discovered that some CIA documents they had been consulting for their report were no longer accessible. First the CIA blamed IT personnel. Then the CIA said the removal was on the orders of the White House. The White House denied giving any orders to remove documents. Eventually Feinstein learned the CIA had removed more than 800 pages of documents from the system in February 2010 without the knowledge or approval of the committee. After consultation with the White House, the committee was promised it wouldn't happen again.
  • Later in 2010, staffers discovered draft versions of an internal CIA report (called the Panetta Review) available in the computer system that also analyzed the detention and "enhanced interrogation" methods used in the war on terror. Feinstein said the documents acknowledged "significant CIA wrongdoing."
  • One of the reasons Feinstein has come forward is because it had been "suggested in the press" that congressional staffers somehow hacked the CIA to get these documents. They were found using the search tools provided by the CIA on the computer system also provided by the CIA. The committee has no idea who provided the Panetta Review documents or whether providing access was intentional, perhaps by a whistleblower.
  • After the Senate Intelligence Committee released its 6,300-page report critical of the CIA's detention and torture techniques, the CIA officially responded that it agreed with some findings but disagreed in some other critical areas. Feinstein revealed this morning that the internal Panetta Review actually showed the CIA came to some of the same conclusions where they now claim they disagree.  
  • The Panetta Review documents then disappeared from the computer system the committee staff was accessing. But the committee has a hard copy of the documents (with sensitive information like names and locations redacted) in its own possession.
  • In January of this year, Feinstein told the CIA the committee wanted access to the full Panetta Review. The CIA said no.
  • Then, CIA director John Brennan came to Feinstein to tell them that the CIA had searched the committee computers as well as the network drive where staff members were doing their work. Brennan said the search was in response to belief that some staffers already had access to the full Panetta Review. "The CIA did not ask the committee or its staff if the committee had access to the internal review or how we obtained it," Feinstein said. "Instead the CIA just went and searched the committee's computers. The CIA has still not asked the committee any questions about how the committee acquired the Panetta Review." Instead, anonymous allegations made it into the press suggesting that the committee had gotten access to the review through criminal means.
  • Feinstein has sent a letter to the CIA asking by what authority are they claiming to be able to search the Senate committee's computers. They have not responded. She has "grave concerns" the search violated the separation of powers and threatened the oversight authority the Senate has over the CIA. She added that the search may have also violated the Fourth Amendment (as every security reporter familiar with her support for mass metadata collection laughs and laughs and laughs), as well as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (that's the law the Department of Justice used against Aaron Swartz) and the executive order that prohibits the CIA from domestic surveillance.
  • CIA officials have since forwarded the matter to the Department of Justice for potential criminal investigation of committee staffers for having access to the Panetta Review. Feinstein reiterated that it was the CIA itself who provided the staff with access to the review. She accused the CIA of trying to intimidate her staff.

CIA Director Brennan has already denied Feinstein's accusations and has said he wouldn't step down unless asked by the president.

In December, former Reason intern Jess Remington noted the White House's suppression of the Senate committee's torture report.

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  1. She’s consistent.

    The 2nd amendment only protects the ‘right’ of the federal and state governments to arm their soldiers.

    The 4th amendment only protects the rights of government agents, elected officials, and their employees from warrantless searches.

    1. B…b….but we are the government!!!

      The government is us!!!

      1. And still no one in the CIA will be arrested or charged for their crimes. Maybe demoted.

  2. Then-CIA Director Leon Panetta offered to set up a computer system at the CIA for congressional staffers to access CIA documents to work on this report. The only CIA personnel who were to have access to this computer system would be IT personnel, and they were not allowed to share information with anybody else in the CIA.

    “You can trust us. We’re all on the same team, here.”

    1. “Congrats Analyst Smith, you’re now ‘IT’. Go and watch the Congressional box.”

  3. But the committee has a hard copy of the documents (with sensitive information like names and locations redacted) in its own possession.

    It might be a good time for somebody to book a flight to Moscow.

  4. So I stumbled across this German word, schadenfreude. Maybe the Senator can tell me what it means?

    In seriousness though, even though the irony here is delicious, I hope Congress actually learns a lesson from this and starts to seriously reduce the power of the surveillance state. And if Feinstein’s version of things is accurate, it sure sounds like some people in the CIA should be headed to jail, maybe even some higher ups. Hey, a man can dream…

    1. Schadenfreude would be if there were an accidental release of Feinstein’s personal emails detailing her real estate transactions and political payback schemes.

      1. “Oh, look here, those documents are still on the system. Which underling was it doing those searches for you?”

    2. And if Feinstein’s version of things is accurate, it sure sounds like some people in the CIA should be headed to jail…

      She has “grave concerns” the search violated the separation of powers and threatened the oversight authority the Senate has over the CIA.

      I’m going to wager on some sternly worded speeches and letters.

      1. I’m betting on a new and totally ineffectual oversight mechanism without any accompanying reduction in the power of the CIA, or anyone else. Because MORE GOVERNMENT!

        1. Do you do horse racing tips too?

  5. I would love to see this turn into a full blown show trial in the Senate, with a blizzard of Congressional subpoenas and Contempt of Congress charges.

    Set up the media bigtop, and let the show commence.

    1. Heads we win, tails they lose!

    2. I’m ready to be dazzled.

  6. Feinstein is an authoritarian turd. That is all.

  7. Shooting her boss made her into a gun-toting 2nd Amendment supporter…

  8. After consultation with the White House, the committee was promised it wouldn’t happen again.

    But did they pinky swear? I don’t think it counts unless they pinky swore…

  9. Am I the only one who thinks this is going to be a pretty big fucking deal?

    We have one of the most senior and prominent Democrats alleging that the Obama White House directed the CIA to spy on Congress.

    That’s like Watergate times 10,000 if it’s true. I hope it is because the political theater would be excellent if a smoking gun bit of evidence is found.

    1. Phony scandal. Shrieky will be along to tell you so himself.

      When the (TEAM Blue) President does it, it’s not illegal.

      1. The CIA was trying to covering up a Bush-era torture and kidnapping program, so blame Bush.

    2. It’s only Watergate, much less Watergate times 10,000, if there’s sufficient political will to transform it into a controversy or sufficient media interest to bring down the administration.

      In the case of the former, there isn’t–Democrats aren’t going to eat President Articulate and Bright and Clean, and Republicans don’t have the collective political will to transform this into a circus, particularly with midterms sitting out there like Christmas Day. The leadership is self-interested enough not to support a bomb-throwing campaign, and individual bomb-throwers aren’t going to get much attention.

      As for media interest in exposing potential felonies by the Ocean-Lowering, Planet-Healing administration, see media reactions to Abdulrahman al-Awlaki vs. Trayvon Martin and then make your own determination as to how much concern they’ll have over this story.

      1. Obama is a black Democrat so he isn’t going anywhere.

  10. her 50-minute speech

    Paging Barfman.

  11. It’s like the Salem witch trials all over again – which didn’t stop until those girls messed with the wrong sort of people.

  12. Spying on the little people: part of the job.
    Spying on El Feinsteino: Now you’re in trouble!

  13. One of the reasons Feinstein has come forward is because it had been “suggested in the press” that congressional staffers somehow hacked the CIA to get these documents. They were found using the search tools provided by the CIA on the computer system also provided by the CIA.

    Ordinary people have been convicted of “hacking” for doing precisely this. There’s a guy (Weev) who was arrested for finding out that data could be scraped from AT&T’s website, and then telling AT&T about it. Is Sen. DiFi saying that she’ll support reform of the CFAA now, or does she again only want different rules for her people?

  14. She has “grave concerns” the search violated the separation of powers

    Dear Senator:

    You — or your speechwriter — owe me a new keyboard. I read this phrase in your speech while taking a sip of Coke, and sprayed it all over my keyboard.

    Gadianton

    Congress hasn’t been worried about separation of powers since they gave theirs away in the FDR administration

  15. This will go nowhere:

    Things will be worked out behind the doors of confidentiality; apologies and mia culpas will be offered up and Diane and Mike will be made to think they remain in control.

    That, or Diane and Mike will get a peek at the full array of detailed personal information about themselves, their loved ones, their private lives, their business doings and their political shenanigans. Then they will be allowed to continue to maintain the pretence they remain in control. (Am I being tinfoil-hat conspiratorial here or do others agree it is not improbable the FBI, the CIA and the NSA have dossiers containing varying amounts of dirt on their masters?)

    1. Actually, this event answers the question: Of course our spy agencies are spying on Congress.

  16. You don’t make it to the top levels of the congressional intelligence community without being the dirtiest pols they could find.

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