Interrogation: CIA Program

CIA Review: CIA Didn't Snoop Improperly on SSCI Staff

By Wells Bennett
Wednesday, January 14, 2015, 4:47 PM

That's the gist of Jason Leopold's extraordinary article this afternoon for Vice, which in turn cites this report by a CIA Accountability Review Board.  (The latter document, as I can now see thumbing through it, says the Board was "directed to limit its investigation only to the conduct of Agency officers, [sic] not to investigate the conduct of SSCI staff members.")

From Leopold's piece:

There is a new twist in the long-running soap opera — and potential constitutional crisis — between the CIA and Senate. Contrary to accusations leveled by the Senate, a 38-page report has found that the CIA did not breach the computers of Senate Intelligence Committee staffers and spy on them while they were investigating the CIA's torture program.

The report was released today by the CIA. And is based on a review conducted by a CIA accountability board.

More coverage from the Washington Post can be found here:

An internal CIA review concluded that agency employees committed no wrongdoing when they surreptitiously searched a computer system used by Senate investigators in a multiyear probe of the agency’s brutal interrogations of terrorism suspects.

The CIA panel found that “no disciplinary actions are warranted” for agency lawyers and computer experts who were involved in the incident, which led to an extraordinary public rupture between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee last year.

The search of the Senate computers by CIA employees was “reasonable in light of their responsibilities to manage an unprecedented computer system” the agency had set up at a secret facility in northern Virginia exclusively for the Senate probe.

Update: Readers may note that I tweaked both our own little headline above, and the post's text.  After reading through both Leopold's article and the Accountability Review Board's (ARB) report, I don't think that, as Leopold suggested, the CIA documents contain any formal findings of theft by Senate staff.  (The Post's piece, you'll notice, does not suggest as much.)   

The headline to Leopold's piece says SSCI staff "stole" documents; the article's body adds color to that claim, stating that "the accountability board's review did find ... [that staff] stole documents from the CIA and violated an agreement it entered into with the agency over the use of a classified computer network" (emphasis mine).

It of course is true that, in reviewing the performance of CIA personnel, the ARB describes some security infractions on the part of Senate staff---including staffers' having electronically accessed some CIA documents that the Agency deemed privileged, among other things. But there's some nuance to go along with that, too. As I noted above, the Board was careful to stress the limited scope of its inquiry, and in particular that it did not "investigate the conduct of SSCI staff members"---something in tension with an outright accusation of stealing.