C.I.A. to Senate Intelligence - do as I say, not as I do

The Senate Intelligence Committee is apparently getting a taste of what it’s like to be the subject of a C.I.A. investigation, and isn’t very pleased. It has partially come to light that the spies have been watching the committee, primarily over an investigation into the Bush administration’s interrogation and detention program in the wake of 9/11. Yes, it’s the long and expensive investigation into the C.I.A.’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” coming back to bite the committee.

It’s no secret that the C.I.A. was less than pleased with the findings the investigation, and when the Senate Committee managed to get their hands on a secret document that contradicted C.I.A. Director John Brennan’s contentions that their initial investigation was at least partially false, things started to get ugly. Like many other webs of intrigue in our government these days, one almost needs a scorecard to keep track.

1. The Senate Intelligence Committee engaged in an investigation of the interrogation and detention program. This cost taxpayers more than $40 million because the C.I.A. insisted that the investigation had to take place in a secure location, and all the material had to be reviewed by an outside contractor before it could be released to the committee staff.

2. The investigation found that the techniques like waterboarding used by the C.I.A. really didn’t yield a great deal of useful information. It certainly didn’t justify the use of those techniques, and placed the U.S. in a difficult situation when it came to foreign relations.

3. C.I.A. Director John Brennan released a rebuttal to the investigation, stating that at least some of the information unearthed by the Senate Intelligence Committee was either inaccurate or misleading.

4. The Senate Intelligence Committee somehow managed to get their hands on a secret internal C.I.A. report that essentially agreed with the committee’s findings on the detention and interrogation program.

5. Senator Mark Udall called Brennan on this report during an open hearing, to which Brennan replied that he hadn’t read what he called a “summary” as opposed to an internal investigation before he had written the rebuttal claiming the Senate committee report was at least partially false.

6. Senator Udall also wrote to the president on the issue, and implied by the language in his communication that the president was already aware of what was going on.

7. The C.I.A., thanks to that internal report that the Senate Intelligence Committee obtained, accused the committee of some sort of spying activity on the agency. The document was theoretically hidden from the reaches of Senate oversight.

8. While the C.I.A. wasn’t pleased with the Senate Intelligence Committee “spying” on them to get the internal report on the detention and interrogation program, they apparently have no problem with spying on staff members of the Senate committee.

9. Since the president was apparently aware of everything else that was going on in this little battle between the C.I.A. and the Senate Intelligence Committee, it isn’t unreasonable to think that he’s also aware of the agency spying on the Senate.

It is a dizzying situation at best, but the bottom line appears to be that the C.I.A. has been spying on the Senate committee tasked with maintaining oversight over the agency. Further, it appears that the agency is of the opinion that it can hide certain uncomfortable findings from the committee - like when their own internal investigations reach the same conclusions as ones mounted by the committee.

As for the Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), that has gone to the mats for Obama on unpopular programs like drone strikes and NSA surveillance, it appears that the president isn’t necessarily returning the favor to her. Time will tell whether or not the president will stand up, and demand that the C.I.A. stop spying on lawmakers and their staff.

For future reference, it might be a good idea for these oversight committees to stop playing by agency rules. Of course the C.I.A. made it easier for themselves by demanding that the committee staff review materials only on agency turf.

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