An internal CIA panel has cleared agency personnel of any wrongdoing when they secretly searched computers being used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to investigate claims of torture by the CIA.
The CIA announced Wednesday that an 'Agency Accountability Board,' chaired by former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) at the request of CIA Director John Brennan, found "no discipline was warranted" for the five agency employees involved in the incident that touched off a feud between the CIA and the Senate.
In addition to Bayh, the panel included former White House counsel Bob Bauer, and three senior career CIA officers. According to Politico, a "source familiar with the situation said all the panelists were selected by Brennan."
"I’m disappointed that no one at the CIA will be held accountable. The decision was made to search committee computers, and someone should be found responsible for those actions."
—Senator Dianne Feinstein
While the misconduct was "clearly inappropriate," Bayh said in a statement released by the CIA, "it was a mistake that did not reflect malfeasance, bad faith, or the intention to gain improper access to [Select Senate Committee on Intelligence] confidential, deliberative material."
"The Board found that no discipline was warranted for the five CIA personnel under review because they acted reasonably under the complex and unprecedented circumstances involved in investigating a potential security breach in the highly classified shared computer network, while also striving to maintain the sanctity of [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence] work product," said Bayh.
The Washington Post reports: "Rejecting the findings of previous inquiries into the matter, the CIA review group found that the agency employees' actions were 'reasonable in light of their responsibilities to manage an unprecedented computer system' set up for Senate aides involved in a multi-year probe of the CIA’s treatment of terrorism suspects."
"The findings are at odds with the conclusions reached by the CIA’s inspector general in a separate review last year," the Post continues. A redacted version of that investigation, also released Wednesday, found that five CIA employees had "improperly accessed" Senate files and placed new blame on congressional aides.
Those directly involved with the Senate investigation disagreed with the accountability board's findings.
According to journalist Michael Isikoff for Yahoo News:
The findings by the so-called CIA accountability board drew sharp objections from some Senate staffers who were involved in the torture report, citing it as yet another example of the CIA’s own inability to police itself.
When briefed Wednesday morning by the accountability board’s chair, former Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, and another of its members, former White House counsel Robert Bauer, the staffers complained about what they viewed as major factual inaccuracies and omissions in the panel’s report and asked them to forestall any public release, sources told Yahoo News.
But, after considering the staffers’ objections, Bayh and Bauer rejected them—and released a redacted version of the report through the agency’s public affairs office hours later.
"Let me be clear: I continue to believe CIA’s actions constituted a violation of the constitutional separation of powers and unfortunately led to the CIA’s referral of unsubstantiated criminal charges to the Justice Department against committee staff," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who chairs the Senate committee. "I’m thankful that Director Brennan has apologized for these actions, but I’m disappointed that no one at the CIA will be held accountable. The decision was made to search committee computers, and someone should be found responsible for those actions."