Reid requests probe of CIA spying charge

Lauren Schneiderman

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has requested that the Senate sergeant-at-arms conduct a forensic evaluation of the Senate Intelligence Committee's computers to determine how documents at the heart of a standoff with the CIA were obtained.

Reid said he hoped the sergeant-at-arms, Terrance Gainer, could figure out how the CIA’s internal “Panetta review” of its Bush-era interrogation program wound up on the Intelligence Committee’s computer network.

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Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) accused the CIA last week of violating the Constitution and separation of powers by searching the Intelligence Committee’s computers for the Panetta review.

The CIA, meanwhile, has accused Intelligence panel staffers of illicitly obtaining the document, and the CIA’s former acting general counsel referred the matter to the Justice Department.

Reid wrote letters to CIA Director John Brennan and Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday notifying them of his request for the investigation. [Read the letters here]

Reid said in his letter to Holder that the CIA’s decision to access the committee’s computers was “absolutely indefensible, regardless of the context.”

“It is immaterial whether this action was taken in response to concerns about the Committee’s possession of a disputed document; this stands as a categorically different and more serious breach,” Reid said.

Brennan has denied that the CIA hacked into the Intelligence Committee computers.

In his letter to the CIA director, Reid said Brennan’s allegations the committee had illicitly accessed the internal review was “patently absurd.”

"To my knowledge, the CIA has produced no evidence to support its claims that Senate committee staff who have no technical training somehow hacked into the CIA's highly secure classified networks, an allegation that appears on its face to be patently absurd,” Reid wrote.

Feinstein has maintained that the Panetta review was included in the millions of files provided to her committee on a secure CIA network that it used to conduct its investigation into waterboarding and other interrogation techniques used during the George W. Bush administration.

The Senate panel’s 6,300-page report, which remains classified and is still being finalized, is harshly critical of the CIA’s interrogation practices.

The CIA has disputed the report’s findings, but Democratic senators say the CIA’s internal review corroborates the committee report and contradicts the CIA’s public statements.