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."