California’s Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, leveled scathing charges at Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan Tuesday for alleged duplicitous actions taken by his agency post 9/11 under George W. Bush to hide the full extent of their brutal torture program.
During her unprecedented public rebuke of the CIA, Sen. Feinstein said information on computers used by Senate investigators was illegally confiscated by the CIA to thwart their progress during the probe of interrogation techniques. She also admonished Brennan for “intimidation” methods and smear campaigns that were used to distract lawmakers from doing their jobs and to subvert congressional oversight.
Feinstein, normally a staunch advocate for the CIA, said she was making her statement reluctantly, but blatant and recent attempts to tamper with incriminating evidence of torture techniques, including waterboarding, being previously used on terrorists suspects was illegal and a clear violation of the US Constitution.
The Guardian published Feinstein’s opening statement on the Senate floor Tuesday:
Over the past week, there have been numerous press articles written about the Intelligence Committee’s oversight review of the Detention and Interrogation Program of the CIA, specifically press attention has focused on the CIA’s intrusion and search of the Senate Select Committee’s computers as well as the committee’s acquisition of a certain internal CIA document known as the Panetta Review.
I rise today to set the record straight and to provide a full accounting of the facts and history.
Let me say up front that I come to the Senate Floor reluctantly. Since January 15, 2014, when I was informed of the CIA’s search of this committee’s network, I have been trying to resolve this dispute in a discreet and respectful way. I have not commented in response to media requests for additional information on this matter. However, the increasing amount of inaccurate information circulating now cannot be allowed to stand unanswered.
Brennen has been a trusted advisor to President Barack Obama, (who made enhanced torture techniques like waterboarding illegal) which puts the president in the middle of a festering fight between his Party and the CIA.
The White House sought to defuse the dispute by staying neutral, but most Democrats are backing Sen. Feinstein, who is a respected lawmaker not prone to hyperbole or making false accusations.
“This is a matter involving protocols established for the interaction between committee staff and the CIA,” said spokesman Jay Carney. “There are periodic disputes about this process and it is under two separate investigations, so I am not going to provide an analysis of it.”
Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations in DC recently, Brennan denied Feinstein’s version of his agency’s involvement. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said, as quoted in the New York Times.
Nevertheless, Senate majority leader Harry Reid supports Feinstein “unequivocally” and said he is deeply disappointed that Brennan staunchly denies the accusations and has been unapologetic.
The Hill reported that Reid called on Obama to declassify Feinstein’s 6,300 page committee report into the agency’s torture activities.
According to the New York Times, Republicans on the Intelligence Committee chose not to comment or said Feinstein had no right to air her gripe in public.
Trust in the CIA by many in Congress has been severely shaken. As much as Brennan would like to see this story fade into the dark of obscurity, it will not escape the light of day— and it should not.