Key Republican defends CIA head

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The Senate Intelligence Committee’s top Republican is coming to CIA Director John Brennan’s defense, after an internal watchdog report showed that officials in his agency secretly spied on committee staffers.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) told the Washington Examiner on Friday that the full report, which has not been released to the public, indicates that Brennan neither knew about nor directed the spying on Congress.

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Instead, the CIA chief has kept Congress in the loop, Chambliss said.

“Brennan came to us — every time there was an issue that popped up, he immediately reported to us,” Chambliss told the newspaper in an interview.

“The [inspector general’s] report says specifically he didn’t direct it, he didn’t know about it in advance, but when he found out about it, he came to the committee, so I think Brennan has done what he’s supposed to do,” he added.

Chambliss’ defense of Brennan matches the strong words from the White House, where press secretary Josh Earnest eagerly defended his tenure on Thursday, after an unclassified summary of the inspector general’s report showed that five officials at the CIA “improperly accessed” committee staffers’ computers.

Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) refused to comment to reporters on Thursday evening about whether or not Brennan should step down. In a statement, however, she praised his “positive first steps” of apologizing for the incident and passing the watchdog report along to an accountability board.

Backing from those sources has not been enough to sway all lawmakers, however.

Two members of the Intelligence Committee — Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) — said on Thursday that Brennan should step aside, in order to rebuild trust between his agency and Congress.