CIA Director Caught Lying and Hacking Senate Computers

Originally published on August 3, 2014, at

U.S. Senators are calling for the resignation of CIA Director John Brennan after the Inspector General reported the CIA hacked computers belonging to members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. After hacking into classified files regarding their Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation (RDI) program, CIA Director Brennan denied his agents committed the cyber attack while accusing the Senate Intelligence Committee of breaching CIA firewalls.

In 2009, former CIA Director Leon Panetta authorized access to millions of documents to the intelligence committee’s chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Documenting the RDI program between the years 2001—2006, the reports gave a damning account of kidnapping, torture, and murder committed by CIA operatives. At the same time, Panetta ordered the CIA to conduct its own investigation into the documents, now referred to as the Panetta Review.

The documents reveal CIA officials had lied to intelligence committees regarding the effectiveness of using enhanced interrogation techniques to extract valuable information. CIA operatives and contractors had exceeded their authority in numerous instances by torturing detainees to death.

In November 2002, CIA officers left black site detainee Gul Rahman half-naked in an unheated cell overnight. Rahman ended up freezing to death. At the Abu Ghraib prison in 2003, Manadel al-Jamadi died in a shower room under CIA interrogation with his arms tied behind his back. In Afghanistan, CIA contractor David A. Passaro beat Abdul Wali to death with a 2-foot long metal flashlight between June 19 and 20, 2003.

“In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks,” President Obama stated.

Last year, five CIA employees — two lawyers and three computer specialists — hacked into files and emails belonging to the Senate Intelligence Committee. They discovered the intelligence committee had gained access to the Panetta Review.

During a private meeting in January, Obama’s former counterterrorism advisor and architect of the drone program, John Brennan, confronted Sen. Feinstein over the top-secret Panetta Review. Feinstein realized Brennan had knowledge that could only have been acquired by hacking her staff’s computers. Brennan falsely accused the Senate Intelligence Committee of breaching the CIA’s firewall and stealing the Panetta Review. He threatened to launch a FBI investigation against members of the intelligence committee.

On the Senate floor in March, Sen. Feinstein openly accused the CIA of hacking the intelligence committee’s computers. Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations, Director Brennan responded, “As far as the allegations of CIA hacking into Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth. We wouldn’t do that. I mean that’s just beyond the scope of reason…”

The following month, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to declassify hundreds of pages in a scathing report on the CIA’s RDI program. Containing over 6,000 pages, the Senate report allegedly details the CIA’s rendition and torture program while revealing CIA officials had falsified claims as to the efficacy of utilizing enhanced interrogation techniques. The Senate report will be released later this month, but the White House has been working closely with intelligence agencies to redact the report before it is returned to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

On July 9, the Justice Department closed their investigation of the Senate Intelligence Committee after finding insufficient evidence of a crime. According to an internal agency inquiry, CIA Inspector General David Buckley found his agency guilty of hacking into the committee’s files and emails. Buckley’s report prompted CIA Director Brennan to privately apologize to intelligence committee chairs for hacking into their computers and declaring false accusations against them.

Two U.S. Senators have recently called for Brennan’s resignation.

“I have no choice but to call for the resignation of CIA Director John Brennan,” said Sen. Mark Udall. “The CIA unconstitutionally spied on Congress by hacking into Senate Intelligence Committee computers. This grave misconduct not only is illegal, but it violates the U.S. Constitution’s requirement of separation of powers. There must be consequences.”

“At this point it would probably be better for the agency, frankly, if he did step aside,” admitted Sen. Martin Heinrich. “I think that the level of trust between the committee and the director has hit a new low.”

President Obama has rejected calls for Brennan’s resignation. Although Brennan has been caught lying to his agency’s oversight committee and hacked their computers, the Justice Department has not charged him with committing any crimes. In response to Sen. Ron Wyden’s question regarding whether the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act applies to the CIA, Brennan wrote, “The answer is the statute does apply.”

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