• Leahy, Sanders dismayed by CIA probe
     | March 12,2014

    MONTPELIER — Vermont’s two U.S. senators said Tuesday they are deeply concerned about allegations the CIA searched computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee in an investigation into the spy agency’s conduct during the Bush administration.

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the committee chairwoman, made the allegations and accused the CIA on Tuesday of criminal actions in a speech on the Senate floor. The speech made public what had been a private dispute between the committee and the agency.

    According to The Associated Press, the CIA provided computers to the committee in a secure location that were used by senior Senate staffers with appropriate security clearances. The computers contained more than 6 million pages of documents for review.

    The committee is finalizing a report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program that began in 2004 under then-President George W. Bush and was ended by executive order signed by President Barack Obama in January 2009. The report is reviewing the interrogation practices used by the CIA.

    Feinstein, in her floor speech, said the agency searched the computer network used by the committee in January. The search may have violated an agreement with the committee concerning monitoring use of the computers, according to the AP.

    Feinstein said she has sought answers from CIA Director John Brennan, penning two letters to him in January about the basis and legality of the search. Brennan has not responded, Feinstein said.

    The CIA may be in violation of the separation of powers laid out in the Constitution, Feinstein said, and is standing in the way of proper congressional oversight.

    The matter has been referred to the Department of Justice by the CIA’s inspector general.

    The CIA, meanwhile, has referred a criminal case to Justice in response, according to Feinstein. Committee staff removed a document from the secure location provided by the CIA and to a secure Senate facility. Feinstein, according to the AP, said the criminal referral was meant to intimidate staff.

    In his own floor speech, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy urged his colleagues to take the matter seriously and seek accountability.

    “We are supposed to be the conscience of the nation,” Leahy said. “The senator from California, Sen. Feinstein, has spoken to our conscience, to every one of us, 100 senators, men and women, both parties. She has spoken to our conscience. Now, let’s stand up for this country. Let’s stand up as United States senators should and as the senator from California has.”

    In a telephone interview Tuesday, Leahy said he discussed the issue with Feinstein for about an hour Sunday. Leahy said the CIA has broken the law if the allegations are true.

    “If it was done the way Sen. Feinstein said, yes, it is a violation,” he said. “I have no reason not to believe what she has said.”

    Leahy said he is most interested on finding out the extent of the CIA’s interrogation program and preventing abuses from happening again.

    “I think the CIA is very concerned about what happened … a few years back involving torture, and probably defensive about that,” he said.

    “But at the same time, if we don’t bring out what happened, it almost guarantees that it will happen again,” Leahy said. “Usually if the stakes aren’t acknowledged and revealed, it’s been my experience that they’re repeated.”

    Sen. Bernard Sanders, who was not available Tuesday, is also concerned, according to his office. A spokesman said the latest revelation about the CIA is “another sign that our intelligence community is out of control and that there must be greater oversight by Congress.”

    The spokesman said Sanders, an independent, believes the intelligence community “works for Congress and for the American people” and must be accountable to them. Feinstein’s allegations indicate this “is clearly not the case today.”

    neal.goswami @rutlandherald.com

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