DOJ Backs Off CIA/Senate Snooping Slap Fight


Who will watch the watchmen who watch the watchmen watching the watchmen?

The Justice Department will not be getting involved in the feud between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee over accusations that the CIA illegally snooped on Senate staffers preparing a report on torture and counter-accusations that the staffers illegally got their hands on unreleased classified CIA documents during the process. The feud was so bad that it actually caused security state worshipper Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to publicly declare that government surveillance is a terrible thing and the Fourth Amendment matters—when applied to the Senate, of course. From McClatchy's Washington bureau:

"The department carefully reviewed the matters referred to us and did not find sufficient evidence to warrant a criminal investigation," said Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr.

The news marks an apparent end to an extraordinary feud that spilled into the public forum in early March over the committee's report on the agency's post-9/11 enhanced interrogation program. The dispute included competing Justice Department referrals, with both the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee accusing the other side of criminal conduct throughout the course of the interrogation study.

I explained the details of the fight back in March. This Senate report analyzing CIA interrogation methods during the Iraq war is known to be very critical of the methods used by the CIA during the Bush administration. Senate staffers were given access to CIA documents through a special computer network at the CIA's offices. CIA employees, other than IT workers, were not supposed to have access to the machines. During the preparation of the report, staffers discovered documents disappearing out of the system, deleted by the CIA. Later they discovered an internal CIA report (called the Panetta Review) analyzing their interrogation methods. Feinstein said the report validated her committee's concerns about interrogation methods.

Later the report disappeared from the computer system. The CIA claims that Senate staff illegally gained access to the report somehow, and it should not have been accessible to them. Feinstein responded that it was the CIA that provided access to this report in the first place and that it was a violation of the Fourth Amendment for CIA to search Senate staff computers without a warrant. The CIA, in turn, went to the Justice Department, accusing Senate staffers of illegally removing classified information. But the Justice Department apparently wants nothing to do with it.

The Senate's report on torture still has not been released. The Senate Intelligence Committee has voted to declassify parts of it, but the CIA gets to review it first to determine whether any of the information would threaten national security if made public.