CIA Hits Back as Feinstein Says It Spied on Senate

John Brennan denies illegal searches of Intelligence Committee computers

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 11, 2014 10:15 AM CDT | Updated Mar 11, 2014 11:07 AM CDT

(Newser) – CIA Director John Brennan is hitting back after Sen. Dianne Feinstein confirmed reports that the CIA illegally searched Senate Intelligence Committee computers. "We weren't trying to block anything," Brennan tells NBC. "The CIA was in no way spying on [the committee] or the Senate." Feinstein had earlier equated the surveillance with intimidation, notes the Washington Post, saying, "I am not taking it lightly." The CIA has broken federal laws, an executive order against domestic spying, and the Fourth Amendment, she says. The agency's own probe of the claims has been referred to the Justice Department, and criminal prosecution could be on the table, Feinstein notes.

The searching occurred in January, the senator says, per the AP. Her claims come after reports that the CIA spied on computers it had provided to the committee for use in reviewing a trove of millions of top secret documents. The committee was looking into information on interrogation techniques. Further reports suggested that Senate staffers took classified documents from the computers. Feinstein, for her part, says she doesn't know how certain interrogation documents ended up in committee hands—whether they were offered by the CIA, mistakenly provided, or handed over by whistleblowers. Sen. Patrick Leahy called Feinstein's speech "one of the best" he'd "ever heard" on the Hill, "and one of the most important."

This video framegrab shows Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., speaking on the floor of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 11, 2014.   (AP Photo/Senate Television)
In this Sept. 5, 2013 file photo, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
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