CIA Accused of Snooping on Senate Staff

By CBS News

Published 03/12 2014 05:11AM

Updated 03/12 2014 05:14AM

WASHINGTON, DC -- Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Tuesday went to the Senate floor to charge that the CIA was spying on committee staff members who were conducting oversight of the intelligence agency. The CIA's actions, which Feinstein said have serious "legal and constitutional implications," have been referred to the Justice Department.

The speech was both a surprise and unprecedented. Diane Feinstein the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee says the CIA spied on the committees computers--during an investigation into the CIA's use of enhanced interrogations after 9-11. By snooping on Congress, Feinstein said, the CIA crossed the line.

"I have grave concerns that the C.I.A.'s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution," Feinstein said Tuesday.

The Director of the CIA, John Brennan, denied the agency had done anything wrong.  "As far as the allegations of CIA hacking into senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth.  We wouldn't do that."

But Director Brennan himself disclosed in January the agency had  "conducted a search of the committee's computer".

Here's the issue. For years the CIA and Intelligence Committee have shared computers at a secret site in Northern Virginia --where investigators could access classified documents.

Last year, the CIA complained that Senate staffers had copied a document considered off limits. The document, called "the internal Panetta review", because it went straight to former Director Leon Panetta,  is said to be highly critical of the CIA's detention and interrogation program.

Feinstein said the committee broke none of the rules.  "The document was made available to the staff at the offsite facility and it was located using a CIA provided search tool."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in a statement that Feinstein "described a troubling pattern of interference and intimidation by the CIA that raises serious questions about possible violations of the Constitution and our criminal laws."

(Wyatt Andrews, CBS News)

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