Hacking the Senate: Is the CIA undermining an intelligence probe?

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The CIA has shown either super-confidence or unprecedented arrogance in taking on the Senate Intelligence Committee and its experienced chairman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Americans made nervous by the level of surveillance directed at them by the CIA and other intelligence bodies have been reassured to a degree by the fact that Congress, representing the interests of citizens, exercises oversight of these agencies.

But in an angry floor speech Tuesday, Ms. Feinstein, a Democrat from California, said that she and her staff were also victims of actions by the CIA that were apparently intended to prevent agency activities that may be inconsistent with U.S. principles of liberty from being revealed or curtailed.

The senator said the CIA not only withheld information from her committee, but it also hacked her staffers’ classified computers, in effect using cyberwar tactics against employees of Congress. The CIA’s intentions, Ms. Feinstein said, were to remove documents that would have shed light on questionable CIA activities.

One focus of the Senate panel was the CIA’s role in renditions, the practice of grabbing suspects in foreign countries and transporting them to other countries where they might be tortured, outside the constraints of U.S. law, to obtain information. The results of an internal CIA review of the practice, completed in 2010, has yet to be made available to Congress and the public, even though the activity was carried out in their name.

CIA Director John Brennan quickly issued a denial of the senator’s allegations, which, if true, signify a clash between executive and legislative powers. Chairman Feinstein, however, is not one to make idle claims. If her charges are correct, the CIA is clearly out of control.

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