CIA Admits Improperly Searching Senate Computers

WASHINGTON (Tribune Washington Bureau/MCT) -

The CIA on Thursday acknowledged that its employees inappropriately searched and pulled files from a Senate computer network set up as part of an inquiry into the CIA’s secret George W. Bush-era interrogation program.

In a statement, a CIA spokesman said Director John Brennan had apologized to Senate Intelligence Committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and other committee leaders for the computer search.

The spokesman said the agency’s inspector general had found evidence that CIA officers’ actions were “inconsistent with the common understanding” between the agency and committee.

“The director is committed to correcting any shortcomings related to this matter,” CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said Thursday.

The CIA has set up an accountability board, led by former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, to review the inspector general’s findings and recommend disciplinary actions, if necessary, Boyd said.

Feinstein, in a statement, called the actions “positive first steps.” In March, Feinstein gave a speech on the Senate floor publicly accusing the CIA of interfering with the committee’s work by penetrating a computer network intended to be used by Senate investigators. CIA officials are believed to have searched the network because they suspected the Senate committee had inappropriately obtained CIA documents.

At the time, Brennan denied that the agency had done anything wrong. The dispute stems from a five-year investigation by the Senate committee into whether CIA personnel during the Bush years had tortured terrorism suspects and whether the agency’s harsh interrogation practices had actually uncovered any crucial information.

The report, a declassified version of which is expected to be released soon, is expected to be a harsh indictment of the grisly interrogation practices used at secret prisons. It concludes that the Bush-era practices did not make the country safer and violated human rights guarantees. Many current and former CIA officials bitterly object to those conclusions.