CIA Director John Brennan on Tuesday flatly denied accusations that his agency secretly searched a Senate Intelligence Committee computer system to access information on an oversight investigation into allegations of Bush-era CIA abuse, and said if an investigation determines his agency is responsible, it will be President Barack Obama who “is the one to ask me to stay or to go.”
Speaking to reporters and foreign policy experts at the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, Brennan defended employees of the clandestine agency and said “nothing can be further from the truth” regarding accusations that the CIA hacked Senate computers for information into a committee investigation regarding its interrogation and detention program under former President George W. Bush.
“As far as the allegations of -CIA hacking into, you know, Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth,” Brennan said. “I mean, we wouldn’t do that.”
Brennan added “that’s just beyond…the scope of reason in terms of what we would do.”
Senate Intelligence Committee head Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) took to the Senate floor Tuesday and publicly accused the CIA of improperly searching the committee computer system. She said the agency’s alleged actions undermine congressional intelligence oversight and that a number of CIA officers could be looking at criminal prosecution. Justice Department officials are leading the investigation into the incident.
“I have grave concerns that the CIA search may well have violated the separation of powers principles,” said Feinstein. “I am not taking it lightly.”
Brennan said the CIA acted appropriately and was only responding to Senate staffers who accessed classified documents they were not privy to have. The documents were accessed after the CIA set up a private facility in Virginia where staff members from the committee could review the documents, reported to number in the millions, said Feinstein on the Senate floor. The staff members accessed a draft of an internal CIA review, which was said to be highly critical of their own rendition and interrogation programs, she added.
Brennan told the audience that he did not want history to inaccurately portray the work of CIA agents, of which 107 have given their lives for the country. And he said the agents who ran the programs need to have their records accurately represented.
“Even as we have learned from the past, we must also try to put the past behind us.” he said.
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