The big headline across the country- members of the Senate Intelligence Committee accuse the CIA of undermining the Constitution and spying on them. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Dianne Feinstein says the CIA hacked into a computer system designed for Congress in order to monitor an investigation into torture and CIA secret overseas prisons.
“The CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution,”Feinstein said. “It may have undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activities.”
On this point, Sen. Feinstein is correct. An investigation by McClatchy reveals that the CIA was attempting to monitor an investigation by Congress that took some four years to compose and cost $40 million. An investigation that delves into Bush Administration era torture techniques and secret prisons that the CIA misled Congress about for years. More on that in a minute.
Sen. Feinstein is also correct that the CIA must be subject to oversight by Congress and is not above the law. But neither is any other government agency including the NSA which has been spying on every American. Simply because those Americans are not members of Congress does not mean that they are not entitled to privacy. Rightfully, Feinstein has been called out for her hypocrisy by Edward Snowden who points out in a statement to NBC News,
“It’s clear the CIA was trying to play ‘keep away’ with documents relevant to an investigation by their overseers in Congress, and that’s a serious constitutional concern, but it’s equally if not more concerning that we’re seeing another ‘Merkel Effect,’ where an elected official does not care at all that the rights of millions of ordinary citizens are violated by our spies, but suddenly it’s a scandal when a politician finds out the same thing happens to them.”
But all of this debate over the CIA spying on Congress is actually secondary to the real story. The congressional report which spans some 6,300 pages, reports on the CIA’s use of waterboarding and harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists held in secret overseas prisons. In addition, according to McClatchy, the report details how the CIA misled the Bush administration and Congress about the use of interrogation techniques that many experts consider torture, that according to public statements by committee members.
Whats more, that report, which is said to be a searing indictment of the CIA has been completed for 15 months and has not yet been released. Why? Because the CIA is holding it up. That’s right. The same agency that is the subject of a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee is also preventing the report about its activities from being released.
Senator Mark Udall has now called on President Obama to strip the CIA of control over how much of the Senate report should be made public. Sen. Udall went a step further by making clear in a letter to President Obama that the President himself is already aware of the CIA spying on Congress to monitor that report saying,
“As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the committee in relation to the internal CIA review and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee’s oversight powers and for our democracy.”