CIA Admits Fault for Snooping on Senate Computers (Updated)


Whoops! Our bad!

Oh, hey, the CIA is willing to admit that it did something wrong—at least when it does something wrong to senators and their staff. A fight had brewed between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) as the voice for her side, over allegations that the CIA had snooped on computers used by Senate aides to access classified information to prepare that torture report I blogged about just a little while ago.

There was never a question as to whether the CIA had accessed the computers. They said they had and argued it was justified because they believed Senate aides were somehow hacking into or accessing documents they weren't supposed to have access to. The Department of Justice previously declined to get involved as each side accused the other of illegal behavior.

Today McClatchy DC reports that an internal investigation puts the fault on the CIA, that employees acted in violation with an agreement with the Senate, and that Feinstein's rant about it was in the right:

CIA Director John Brennan briefed Feinstein and the committee's vice chairman, Saxby Chambliss, R-GA, on the CIA inspector general's findings and apologized to them during a meeting on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Boyd said.

"The director . . . apologized to them for such actions by CIA officers as described in the OIG (Office of Inspector General Report)," he said.

Brennan has decided to submit the findings for review by an accountability board chaired by retired Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, who served on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Boyd.

"This board will review the OIG report, conduct interviews as needed, and provide the director with recommendations that, depending on its findings, could include potential disciplinary measures and/or steps to address systemic issues," said Boyd.

Potential discipline! Of course, since the whole thing is over now anyway, we probably shouldn't expect too much. Somebody may retire a few years earlier than expected for a six-figure consulting job in the private sector!

Update: Here's an unclassified summary of what the internal investigation found. It states that the CIA actually had no foundation to accuse the Senate staff of improperly accessing information, the justification the CIA used to snoop on them and to file a complaint with the Department of Justice.

NEXT: Here's a List of 700 (Out of At Least 2,300) People Killed in U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “Please don’t constrain our budget!”


    1. Obviously they need more money to hire people to make sure this never happens again. Another few billion should suffice.

    2. The three IT staff members demonstrated a lack of candor about their activities during interviews by the OIG

      In other words “they didn’t tell us everything, so we HAD to search them”

  2. “Mistakes were made. Corrective actions were taken. And nothing else happened.”

  3. The bureaucracies and agencies (which are just bureaucracies too) are completely and totally out of control. They face no consequences for pretty much any action (Fast and Furious? CIA snooping?), no matter how egregious. And for whatever reason, the legislative branch is either uninterested or incapable of bringing them to heel.

    I’ve read many a science fiction book where the future is run by boogeyman corporations, but that has always struck me as asinine and an ideological way for the authors to avoid the real potential truth: the future being run by “corporations”, all right; “corporations” with monopolies on force, or as we know them, bureaucracies. I mean, who has more control over your life; Congress, or the IRS? Who can really fuck you three ways from Sunday; your state governor, or the TSA?

    1. And for whatever reason, the legislative branch is either uninterested or incapable of bringing them to heel.

      It’s the game they’ve rigged; rather than do something themselves, they delegate the task to an unelected official. That way, whatever action the agency pursues is “out of our hands, there’s nothing we can do about it! What do you want us to do, eliminate the entire agency!?”

      And it works on Americans, because Americans are by and large fucking idiots.

      1. Except that that’s coming back to bite them in the ass, seeing as the CIA spied on them. I understand why they did it in the first place, but one thing these people like is their power, and now the CIA is basically shoving it in their faces that they don’t have it any more.

        1. Right, but its only through the alphabet soup of agencies that the government retains its power and privilege. They’ve created a monster and lost control of it, and there’s no politically viable strategy for them to dismantle it.

          Once someone comes out and says “Disband (insert agency here),” the candidate is automatically disregarded. Believe me, I wish that weren’t the case, but that’s how it is.

          Maybe I’m just in an overly cynical mood today.

          1. Maybe I’m just in an overly cynical mood today.

            Nope. The only way any meaningful change will occur, now, is via an economic or societal collapse. The beast is self sustaining.

            Even then, the leftards will still be blaming the mean old conservatives for the collapse.

            1. Fer sure.

              When the collapse comes, I will blame Bush.

          2. They’ve created a monster and lost control of it, and there’s no politically viable strategy for them to dismantle it

            This is the heart of it. The only thing now it to wait and see what happens, because I’m not sure we have any real historical precedent for “government agencies so powerful they cannot be reigned in”. Well, I guess things like the Gracchi Brothers and the like, but again most historical precedents involve individuals much more than faceless agencies.

            1. OT: Continuum S3 came out on Netflix, and I started watching it last night, and I find it interesting that they’re kind of addressing this exact conundrum.

              1. Continuum is extremely confused as to what a government is as opposed to a corporation. I like the show but if you just replaced ever utterance of “corporation” with “government” it would make so much more sense.

                1. Continuum is interesting from the “what if” scenario, as far as what rights do you have with a non-governmental body, but the scenarios presented are the usual levels of retardation and the backstory is very light on details.

                2. I like the show but if you just replaced ever utterance of “corporation” with “government” it would make so much more sense.

                  That’s pretty much how I watch it, cause I noticed in the first season that they were saying “KORPORASHUNZ!” Makes the show enjoyable, for me.

    2. Poppycock. Why, just the other day, while on foot and passing a 7-11, the clerk exied and proceeded to beat me about the face and neck until I purchased something from his fine establishment.

      It happens quite frequently as I pass businesses, so it’s of no matter. I greatly enjoyed my Slim James and Mountainous Dew!

      1. If you don’t do the dew, the dew will do you.

        1. Do give the Dew its due, dude.

      2. Snap into a Slim James!

    3. Correct. Although I think it’s not quite correct to say that the agencies have monopolies on force, since many of them have overlapping jurisdictions and engage in petty power struggles with each other. It’s kind of like how the Third Reich was structured in that sense, isn’t it?

      Other than that, there’s nothing to argue with in your post, so I’m just gonna go ahead and call you an asshole. Asshole.

      1. They have a monopoly on force in that they’re still all part of the one huge gang that has a monopoly on force, and while they may squabble over the edges, they mostly know who has the monopoly over what. The EPA isn’t going to worry about drug interdiction, for instance.

        It’s like Westeros. A lord (agency) has pretty much total control over his lands (jurisdiction).

        1. It’s like Westeros. A lord (agency) has pretty much total control over his lands (jurisdiction).

          Oh, stop. You just want in on the sister fucking.

    4. Corporations used to use force (Pinkertons). The question was how gray was the line between offensive and defensive uses of force by private entities (and their hired agents) and the concreteness of title claims underneath (anyone for a Joe Kidd movie night? “there was a fiiirrre, the records – they burned…”). Of course, once the State fell into supporting unions and ended such ugly displays of force by both sides of the productive sector, the State also fell into being a bit of a strong arm for “private” corporations when dealing with the consumer – establishing mandated purchases (which paved the way for Obamacare penaltaxes as the envelop was pushed a little further) as an example.

      In short, the last 100 years has seen the State support, buttress, subsidize, and act on behalf of the productive sector (labor and holders of the means of production)and the consumers have been getting it hard all the while. That’s about as simple a description of our coroporo-fascism as can be drawn. Sadly, just as there is partisanship with regard to public policy -fiscal/monetary/economic policies – there’s a partisanship with adherence to the unions or “corporations” when a free marketeer shouldn’t take a side for either one. A consumer should never see their freedom of choice bounded by the battles between labor and the holders of the means or production, through State action.

      1. Dude, you’re a fucking moron.

      2. coroporo-fascism

        Well, They are kinda creepy… but Fascist? I’m not buying it.

    5. I’m a massive William Gibson fan. It never struck me as totally unrealistic, in his (or any other author’s) futurist fiction, to see a possible far future where monopolistic companies had been allowed to get so massive that they could literally do whatever they wanted, especially in places where there were essentially no governing bodies.

      I mean, power corrupts, right? What kind of power it is doesn’t matter. Politicians are generally corruptible types, & we know lobbyists influence and buy them off routinely, often to the public’s detriment. It’s not THAT far-fetched. Gibson, in my mind, was simply exploring the corrupting nature of power.

      1. Then, I when I finally got an account a few years ago, I checked Gibson’s Twitter profile, and I saw almost every tweet/retweet was about those damn, evil Republicans. This as Obama was droning people to death.

        Oh well. He’s still a really good writer :/

  4. So we have a legislative branch that’s becoming increasingly subservient to the executive, so much so that the executive spies on the legislators and doesn’t care who knows about it. Hm. This has all happened before and will happen again.

    1. Sit down! I can’t see the circus!

      And please pass the bread…

  5. Well as long as we’re clear on that, it’s all good now.

  6. “That’s okay, Buddy, just don’t let it happen again.”

  7. The Department of Justice previously declined to get involved as each side accused the other of illegal behavior.

    Now that one side has admitted to wrong-doing, I’m sure the DOJ will prosecute. Right? Guys?

    1. HAH! I know you’re high. 1: Posted at 4:20, 2: assumed ludicrous premise.

  8. Seems to me that the congress can authorize its own members and staff to look at anything and everything they want to see on the spook’s computer systems.


  9. I’d care more if I didn’t think so many of our Congress-critters weren’t treasonous dimwitted moronic a$$holes.

    When law becomes a politicized weapon rather than a reflection of society’s shared principles, one can no longer expect it to be revered in a manner befitting “political religion.” And when the officials trusted to execute law faithfully violate laws regularly, they lose their presumption of legitimacy.
    -Andrew C. McCarthy

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.