Today in totally unsurprising news, the CIA Inspector General’s recent report included the juicy little tidbit that the CIA consulted with the White House Chief of Staff before spying on Senate staffers who were investigating that agency’s use of torture during the Bush administration.
Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan consulted the White House before directing agency personnel to sift through a walled-off computer drive being used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to construct its investigation of the agency’s torture program, according to a recently released report by the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General.
The Inspector General’s report, which was completed in July but only released by the agency on Wednesday, reveals that Brennan spoke with White House chief of staff Denis McDonough before ordering CIA employees to “use whatever means necessary” to determine how certain sensitive internal documents had wound up in Senate investigators’ hands.
Brennan’s consultation with McDonough also came before the CIA revealed the search to then-Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), whose staff was the target of the snooping.
The new information suggesting the White House was aware of — and did not stop — the CIA’s computer snooping is unlikely to improve the existing distrust between Senate committee members and the executive branch. Feinstein has said that the CIA’s computer search likely violated the constitutional separation of powers, an allegation the White House has declined to directly address.
The Oval Office’s prior knowledge of the controversial computer review will no doubt worsen the tensions that have erupted over the matter between the executive branch, its chief intelligence agency and the lawmakers tasked with their oversight.
Keep in mind that McDonough was the White House’s point person between the CIA and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which distrusted each other immensely (a distrust that was entirely justified on the part of the Senate staffers, obviously). Also keep in mind that the computers in question that were spied on were set up by the CIA and that every document found on those computers was put there by them in response to subpoenas from the committee. And that it was McDonough who pleaded with the committee not to release the report after it was completed.