Feinstein alleges CIA retaliation against Senate Intelligence Committee staff

The Central Intelligence Agency is retaliating against the Senate Intelligence Committee by filing a crimes report with the Justice Department alleging wrongdoing by congressional staff investigating the CIA’s detention and interrogation program in oversea “black prisons”, according to Sen. Dianne Feinstein. 

Read more: Feinstein accuses CIA of spying on Congress

In her floor speech yesterday, Feinstein disclosed that CIA’s Acting General Counsel filed a crimes report against Senate Intelligence Committee staff with the Justice Department. She noted that the crimes report was filed after the CIA Inspector General referred allegations of unauthorized searches and removal of documents from the Senate committee’s computers by CIA to the Justice Department.

“I view the Acting Counsel General’s referral as a potential effort to intimidate this staff and I am not taking it lightly,” said Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Feinstein also pointed out clear conflict of interests in the CIA’s Acting General Counsel’s decision to file a crimes report against the Senate staff. The Acting General Counsel, Robert Eatinger, served as the chief lawyer in the agency’s Counter-Terrorism Center, which carried out the detention and interrogation program investigated by the Senate committee.

“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,” said Feinstein. “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.”

The timing of the CIA’s allegations against the Senate committee staff is also suspicious. Feinstein noted that the Senate staff is now working on the final revisions of the committee’s report on the CIA’s “black prisons” program.

“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,” said Feinstein. “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.”

Feinstein said the CIA and the Justice Department have not provided “specifics of these allegations” against the Senate committee staff. However, it appears the crimes report may be related to the committee’s possession of the so-called Internal Panetta Review in which the CIA acknowledged “wrongdoing” in its detention and interrogation programs.

“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,” said Feinstein.

A redacted print copy of the Internal Panetta Review was transferred the Senate Intelligence Committee’s secure facility, and electronic copies of the Panetta Review “disappeared” from the Senate committee’s computer system.

“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,” said Feinstein. “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.”

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