A furious clash has erupted between Senator Feinstein (D-Calif.) and the CIA over her committee’s investigation of the Bush administration and the CIA for waterboarding top terrorists.
The so-called “torture report” being prepared by the Democrat-led Senate is at the heart of the very public charges made by Feinstein, who says the CIA hacked Senate computers.
After a decade of pointing fingers at the Bush administration, Feinstein has taken her war against the CIA to the Senate floor, accusing the agency of spying on congressional computers meant to provide sensitive information on the interrogation of terrorists by the CIA.
Feinstein, a liberal Democrat, has been at odds with the CIA since it waterboarded militant terrorists like Khalid Sheik Mohammed at Guantanamo during the Bush administration.
Ms. Feinstein claims she had already asked CIA Director John Brennan (above) about the matter but has not received any answers regarding the alleged breech of Senate research computers. She claims CIA agents conducted an unconstitutional “search” of the computers in January and that she had referred the matter to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution.
“Besides the constitutional implications,” of separation of powers, she said, “the C.I.A.’s search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the C.I.A. from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.”
Ironically, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden accused Sen. Feinstein of hypocrisy Tuesday for complaining about alleged CIA spying on U.S. senators while tolerating government spying on private citizens during the NSA scandal.
For his part, Brennan said the CIA did not “spy” on the computers. The computers were prepared for congressional use, partly for researching matters of interrogation techniques, including documents on waterboarding.
Feinstein doggedly pursued the Bush administration for waterboarding terrorist leaders who planned the attack on New York City in 2001. Her attack on the CIA from the Senate floor is the latest in a series of political dramas that attempt to hang torture charges on CIA interrogators and members of the Bush administration.
The California Democrat alleges that the CIA hacked into Senate computers to obtain information relating to her committee’s research on CIA interrogations, particularly those conducted during the Bush administration’s War on Terror.
Meanwhile, the CIA claims it did not hack computers prepared for Feinstein’s committee in January. She and other senators had sifted through reams of classified security documents from the Bush years, some say looking for evidence of CIA torture conducted against terrorists. At the same time, the CIA has accused Feinstein’s committee of improper behavior, including the manipulation of sensitive classified CIA documents from the computers.Feinstein was unable to explain why senators would be in possession of leaked classified documents.
The public dispute between Feinstein and the CIA comes as the Obama administration is trying to regain public trust after classified details about widespread surveillance of Americans were disclosed by former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden last summer.
Sen. Feinstein is no stranger to controversy. The liberal politician whose husband made a fortune on government real estate contracts steered his way launched a political jihad against the CIA and the Bush administration for waterboarding top terrorists more than a decade ago. Key Democrats have fought for the civil rights of terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on New York City and the Pentagon, insisting terror combatants should receive the same legal rights as American citizens.
However, unlike thousands of innocent terror victims who died in the Trade Center, Pentagon and aboard doomed airliners, CIA interrogators did not injure Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his ilk. Mohammed, who masterminded the diabolical plan to fly airliners into the Twin Towers and Pentagon, is charged with committing war crimes and remains a prisoner of war at Guantánamo Bay despite Democratic Party efforts to afford him the right to a civilian trial.
Bush-era CIA interrogations operative Jose Rodriguez, one of Feinstein’s CIA targets, says everything his interrogators did to top-level terrorists like Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah was legal and effective.
"We made some al Qaeda terrorists with American blood on their hands uncomfortable for a few days," he once told Leslie Stahl in an interview. "I am very secure in what we did and am very confident that what we did saved American lives," says Rodriguez, who has written a book on the subject called "Hard Measures."