The White House knew the CIA was filing a report with the Justice Department that suggested Senate staffers had committed a crime by taking documents from a CIA computer.
White House spokesman Jay Carney on Wednesday said the CIA gave the White House a “heads up” it would file the report, which Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said was an effort to intimidate congressional investigators.
Carney said that he did not know exactly how much of an advanced notice White House lawyers were given, only it was “shortly” before the referral was filed. He also did not detail when President Obama specifically learned of the dispute.
“The president has been aware in general about the protocols and the discussions and occasional disputes about the protocols involved in the provision of an unprecedented number of documents from CIA to the committee,” Carney said.
The White House spokesman again refused to weigh in on the brewing controversy, which has pitted top legislative allies of the president against the administration.
“The questions about the matters under review that have to do with a process and whether protocols were followed properly, those are details that I'm not going to get into because they're under review both by the independent inspector general and by the Department of Justice,” Carney said.
Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Intelligence panel, charged in a floor speech on Tuesday that the CIA had spied on and removed documents from computers congressional investigators were using to examine the agency's controversial enhanced interrogation practices.
The CIA has charged that Senate staffers improperly gained access to an internal document reviewing agency interrogation practices, although it is unclear how they gained access to the file. Feinstein has suggested a whistleblower may have placed the document on the server, or that it was accidentally included in documents turned over by the agency. The agency has denied hacking into Senate computers.
Feinstein also charged that the referral to the Justice Department — suggesting Senate staff had broken the law — was a bid to intimidate her investigators.
“There is no legitimate reason to allege to the Justice Department that Senate any staff have committed a crime," Feinstein said. “I view the acting general counsel's referral as a potential effort to intimidate this staff — and I am not taking it lightly.”