Sen. Feinstein: CIA Smashed Constitution, Separation of Powers

By:  Thomas R. Eddlem
Sen. Feinstein: CIA Smashed Constitution, Separation of Powers

Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) publicly charged the CIA with repeatedly spying on her committee staffers conducting oversight of the agency, and of deleting files from committee computers.

Feinstein spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate March 11 to denounce the agency and claimed the “CIA's search may well have violated the separation of powers principle embodied in the United States Constitution, including the speech and debate clause. It may have undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activities or any other government function.”

Feinstein stated in her Senate speech that several CIA officials had acknowledged the surveillance and interference with the committee's efforts to draft a report on the CIA's unconstitutional prisons abroad during the Bush era. According to Feinstein, the committee concluded “the interrogations and the conditions of confinement at the CIA detentions sites were far different and far more harsh than the way the CIA had described them to us.”

Despite Feinstein's contention that the CIA had acknowledged the scan of Intelligence Committee computers — and removal of classified materials the CIA had previously given to the committee — CIA Director John Brennan responded with a public denial. "As far as the allegations of the CIA hacking into Senate computers,” Brennan told NBC's Andrea Mitchell in an interview at the Council on Foreign Relations, “nothing could be further from the truth. We wouldn't do that. That is just beyond the scope of reason in terms of what we would do.”

The New Yorker reported back on October 17, 2013 that “Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, including Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, are pushing to declassify and publicly release it. But John Brennan, the agency’s director, a career C.I.A. officer, and an Obama confidant, is apparently resisting disclosure, and challenging many of the report’s conclusions.”

Feinstein in her speech said that the five-year investigation of the CIA's torture program was delayed by CIA bureaucratic resistance, spurious claims of “executive privilege,” outright misrepresentation and deceit, and career protectionism on behalf of the Acting CIA General Counsel Robert Eatinger. “I should note that for most if not all of the CIA's detention and interrogation program, the now-acting general counsel was a lawyer in the CIA's counterterrorism center, the unit within which the CIA managed and carried out this program. From mid-2004 until the official termination of the detention and interrogation program in January 2009, he was the unit's chief lawyer. He is mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in our study,” she said.

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Photo of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.): AP Images

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