How Irked Is the White House About a Senator’s Allegation of a Constitutional Violation?

The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee charged that the executive branch was spying on the legislative branch, potentially violating the law and Constitution, but the White House’s strongest response was that the matter is under review.

White House press secretary Jay Carney listens as he briefs reporters at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, March 11, 2014. Carney took questions about allegations that the CIA searched computers of congressional staffers. (AP/Charles Dharapak)

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) made the assertion Tuesday that the CIA searched a stand-alone computer network established for Congress to probe the Bush-era enhanced interrogation program. CIA Inspector General David Buckley is investigating and has referred the matter to the Justice Department.

But White House press secretary Jay Carney was hesitant to answer even if President Barack Obama was troubled by the allegation.

“I’m not characterizing his point of view on a matter under investigation,” Carney said.

Feinstein said on the Senate floor that she had “grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the U.S. Constitution.”

Feinstein said the CIA searched the Senate Intelligence Committee’s computer network in January and said she has not received any answers to letters she sent the CIA on Jan. 17 and Jan. 23.

Carney took numerous questions on Feinstein’s allegation, and generally gave a variation of the same response.

“I’m not going to comment on specific allegations the disputes over the protocols,” Carney said.

[sharequote align=”center”]“I’m not going to comment on specific allegations the disputes over the protocols.”[/sharequote]

CIA Director John Brennan denied the allegations, saying the agency was not spying on Senate investigators.

Carney said Obama has full confidence in Brennan.

Carney added that the Senate was investigating a Bush-era practice of enhanced interrogation of terror suspects that Obama opposed.

“I can say again, the White House’s perspective on this is reflected in the fact that we have made clear to the committee that we support the declassification of the findings of the report,” Carney said. “After all, this is an investigation into the practices that the president strongly opposed, that he made clear were inconsistent with out values as a nation, and that he ended shortly after taking office.”

Reporters asked if the White House believed Feinstein.

Carney responded, “We take everything she says serious and under advisement, but I’m not going to comment on a matter that is under review.”