In an ironic turn, the congressional authorities who have staunchly defended the National Security Agency's widespread spying operations are now crying foul after having been spied on by another branch of U.S. intelligence.
News reporting on Tuesday revealed that the Inspector General's office, the agency tasked with CIA oversight, has asked the Department of Justice to investigate claims that the spy agency monitored computers used by Senate aides preparing what is believed to be a "searing indictment" on the CIA's secret detention and interrogation program.
In what McClatchy news characterized as an "unprecedented breakdown in relations between the CIA and its congressional overseers," members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are saying the alleged CIA spying violates provisions of the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
The committee determined earlier this year that the CIA monitored computers – in possible violation of an agreement against doing so – that the agency had provided to intelligence committee staff in a secure room at CIA headquarters that the agency insisted they use to review millions of pages of top-secret reports, cables and other documents, according to people with knowledge.
In response to the news, Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU, and independent journalist Glenn Greenwald noted the irony of the investigation:
— Jameel Jaffer (@JameelJaffer) March 5, 2014
Ironic: Senate Intel Comm - which endorses vast NSA spying on ordinary citizens - gets angry when they're spied on http://t.co/zHnWQcD9Rr
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— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 5, 2014
Chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)—who hasopenly supported the NSA's spy program—acknowledged the internal review Tuesday, saying, “There is an I.G. investigation.” Without providing any details on the dispute, spy allegations or torture report, she added, “Our oversight role will prevail.”
Intelligence Committee member Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.)—who has previously gone against the grain in asking for more transparency regarding NSA surveillance—issued a letter to President Barack Obama on Tuesday.
“As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the committee in relation to the internal CIA review and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the committee’s oversight responsibilities and for our democracy,” Udall wrote. “It is essential that the committee be able to do its oversight work – consistent with our constitutional principle of the separation of powers – without the CIA posing impediments or obstacles as it is today.”
The Udall letter also calls for the President to "declassify as much as possible" of the 6,300-page report "for the American people."
The report remains classified nearly 15 months after the Senate panel completed the document and turned it over to the CIA for vetting.
"It is my belief that the declassification of the Committee Study is of paramount importance and that decisions about what should or should not be declassified regarding this issue should not be delegated to the CIA, but directly handled by the White House," Udall continued.
According to members of the committee, the report details how the CIA misled the Bush administration and Congress about the use of interrogation techniques, which many believe constitute torture, such as waterboarding. It also demonstrates that the interrogation techniques did not provide the intelligence that led the CIA to the hideout in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was killed in a 2011 raid by Navy SEALs.