Transcript: Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s floor statement on improper CIA search of congressional computers – Part V of V

Part V of V: Partial transcript of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-California) floor statement accusing the Central Intelligence Committee of improperly accessing and searching computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to investigate the CIA’s detention and interrogation programs at “black prisons” overseas. Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, delivered her statement on March 11, 2014.

Our work continued until December 2012 when the Intelligence Committee approved a 6,300 page committee study of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program and sent the executive report to the Executive Branch for comment.

The CIA provided its response to the study on June 27, 2013. As CIA Director Brennan has stated, the CIA officially agrees with some of our study but has been reported the CIA disagrees and disputes important parts of it. And this is important.

Some of the important parts that the CIA now disputes in our committee study are clearly acknowledged in the CIA’s own Internal Panetta Review. To say the least, this is puzzling.

How can the CIA’s official response to our study stand factually in conflict with its own internal review?

Now, after noting the disparity between the official CIA response to the committee’s study and the Internal Panetta Review, the committee staff securely transported a printed portion of the draft Internal Panetta Review from the committee’s secure room at the CIA-leased facility to the secured committee’s spaces in the Hart Senate office building.

And let me be clear about this. I mentioned earlier the exchange of letters that Sen. Bond and I had with Director Panetta in 2009 over the handling of information for this review. The letters set out a process whereby the committee would provide specific CIA documents to CIA reviewers before bringing them back to our secure offices here on Capitol Hill.

The CIA review was designed specifically to make sure that committee documents available to all staff and members did not include certain kinds of information, most importantly the true names of non-supervisory CIA personnel and the names of specific countries in which the CIA operated detention sites.

We had agreed up front that our report didn’t need to include this information and so we agreed to redact it from materials leaving the CIA’s facility.

Keeping with the spirit of the agreement, the portion of the Internal Panetta Review in the Hart Building in our safe has been redacted. It does not contain names of non-supervisory CIA personnel or information identifying detention site locations.

In other words, our staff did just what the CIA personnel would have done had they reviewed the document.

There are several reasons why the draft summary of the Panetta Review was brought to our secure spaces at the Hart Building. Let me list them:

One, the significance of the Internal Review given disparity between it and the June 2013 CIA response to the committee’s study. The Internal Panetta Review summary now at the secure committee office in Hart is an especially significant document as it corroborates critical information in the committee’s 6,300-page study that the CIA’s official response either objects to, denies, minimizes, or ignores. Unlike the official response, these Panetta Review documents were in agreement with the committee’s findings. That’s what makes them so significant and important to protect.

When the Internal Panetta Review documents disappeared from the committee’s computer system, this suggested once again that the CIA had removed documents already provided to the committee in violation of CIA agreements and White House assurances that the CIA would cease such activities.

As I have detailed, the CIA has previously withheld and destroyed information about its detention and interrogation program, including its decision in 2005 to destroy interrogation videotapes over the objections of the Bush White House and the Director of National Intelligence.

Based on the above, there was a need to preserve and protect the Internal Panetta Review in the committee’s own secure spaces.

Now, the relocation of the Internal Panetta Review was lawful and handled in a manner consistent with its classification. No law prevents the relocation of a document in the committee’s possession from a CIA facility to secure committee offices on Capitol Hill.

As I mentioned before, the document was handled and transported in a manner consistent with its classification, redacted appropriately, and it remains secured with restricted access in committee spaces.

Now, the Jan. 15, 2014 meeting with Director John Brennan. In late 2013, I requested in writing that the CIA provide a final and complete version of the Internal Panetta Review to the committee as opposed to the partial document the committee currently possesses.

In December, during an open committee hearing, Sen. Mark Udall echoed this request. In early January 2014, the CIA informed the committee it would not provide the Internal Panetta Review to the committee, citing the deliberative nature of the document.

Shortly thereafter, on Jan. 15, 2014, CIA Director Brennan requested an emergency meeting to inform me and Vice Chairman Chambliss that without prior notification or approval CIA personnel had conducted a “search” – that was John Brennan’s word – of the committee computers at the offsite facility.

This search involved not only a search of documents provided [to] the committee by the CIA but also a search of the standalone and walled off committee network drive containing the committee’s own internal work product and communications.

According to Brennan, the computer search was conducted in response to indications that some members of the committee staff might already have had access to the Internal Panetta Review.

The CIA did not ask the committee or its staff if the committee had access to the internal review or how we obtained it. Instead, the CIA just went and searched the committee’s computers. The CIA has still not asked the committee any questions about how the committee acquired the Panetta Review.

In place of asking any questions, the CIA’s unauthorized search of the committee computers was followed by an allegation, which we now have seen repeated anonymously in the press, that the committee staff had somehow obtained the document through unauthorized or criminal means, perhaps to include hacking into the CIA’s computer network.

As I have described, this is not true. The document was made available to the staff at the offsite facility, and it was located using a CIA-provided search tool, running a query of the information provided to the committee pursuant to its investigation.

Director Brennan stated that the CIA search had determined that the committee’s staff had copies of the Internal Panetta Review on the committee staff’s shared drive and had access them numerous times.

He indicated at the meeting that he was going to order further forensic investigation of the committee network to learn more about activities of the committee’s oversight staff.

Two days after the meeting, on Jan. 17th, I wrote a letter to Director Brennan objecting to any further CIA investigation due to the separation of powers constitutional issues that this search raised.

I followed this with a second letter on Jan. 23rd to the Director, asking 12 specific questions about the CIA’s actions – questions that the CIA has refused to answer.

Some of the questions in my letter related to the full scope of the CIA search of our computer network. Other questions related to who had authorized and conducted this search, and what legal basis the CIA claimed gave it authority to conduct the search. Again, the CIA has not provided answers to any of my questions.

My letter also laid out my concern about the legal and constitutional implications of the CIA’s actions.

Based on what Director Brennan has informed us, I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution, including the speech and debate clause. It may have undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activities or any other government function.

I have asked for an apology and a recognition that this CIA search of computers used by its oversight committee was inappropriate. I have received neither.

Besides the constitutional implication, the CIA’s search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.

Days after the meeting with Director Brennan, the CIA Inspector General David Buckley learned of the CIA search and began an investigation into CIA’s activities.

I’ve been informed that Mr. Buckley has referred the matter to the Department of Justice given the possibility of a criminal violation by CIA personnel.

Let me note because the CIA has refused to answer the questions in my Jan. 23rd letter and the CIA Inspector General is ongoing, I have limited information about exactly what the CIA did in conducting its search.

Weeks later, I was also told that after the Inspector General referred the CIA’s activities to the Department of Justice, the Acting Counsel General of the CIA filed a crimes report with the Department of Justice concerning the committee staff’s actions. I have not been provided the specifics of these allegations or been told whether the department has initiated a criminal investigation based on the allegations of the CIA’s Acting General Counsel.

As I mentioned before, our staff involved in this matter have the appropriate clearances, handled the sensitive material according to established procedures and practice to protect classified information, and were provided access to the Panetta Review by the CIA itself. As a result, there is no legitimate reason to allege to the Justice Department that Senate staff may have committed a crime.

I view the Acting Counsel General’s referral as a potential effort to intimidate this staff and I am not taking it lightly.

I should note that for most, if not all, of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, the now Acting General Counsel was a lawyer in the CIA’s counter-terrorism center – the unit within which the CIA managed and carried out this program.

From mid-2004 until the official termination of the detention and interrogation program in January 2009, he was the unit’s chief lawyer. He is mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in our study. And now, this individual is sending a crimes report to the Department of Justice on the actions of congressional staff – the same congressional staff who researched and drafted a report that details how CIA officers, including the Acting General Counsel himself, provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice about the program.

Mr. President, let me say this: All Senators rely on their staff to be their eyes and ears and to carry out our duties. The staff members of the Intelligence Committee are dedicated professionals who are motivated to do what is best for our nation. The staff members who have been working on this study and this report have devoted years of their lives to it, wading through the horrible details of a CIA program that never, never, never, never should have existed. They have worked long hours and produced a report unprecedented in its comprehensive attention to detail in the history of this Senate. They are now being threatened with legal jeopardy just as the final revisions to the report are being made so that parts of it can be declassified and released to the American people.

Mr. President, I felt that I needed to come to the floor today to correct the public record and to give the American people the facts about what the dedicated committee staff have been working so hard for the last several years as part of the committee’s investigation.

I also want to reiterate to my colleagues my desire to have all updates to the committee report completed this month and approved for declassification. We’re not going to stop. I intend to move to have the findings, conclusions, and the executive summary of the report sent to the President for declassification and release to the American people.

The White House has indicated publicly and to me personally that it supports declassification and release.

If the Senate can declassify this report, we will be able to ensure that an un-American brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted.

But Mr. President, the recent actions that I have just laid out make this a defining moment for the oversight of our Intelligence Committee. How Congress and how this will be resolved will show whether the Intelligence Committee can be effective in monitoring and investigating our nation’s intelligence activities or whether our work can be thwarted by those we oversee. I believe it is critical that the committee and the Senate reaffirm our oversight role and our independence under the Constitution of the United States.

Mr. President, I thank you very much for your patience and I yield the floor.

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