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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

 
Feinstein vs Brennan

by digby

Say what you will about Dianne Feinstein's less than stellar oversight performance (and I have said plenty) on torture, at least, she has been better.  And she's had it.  She made a speech n the floor of the Senate  today about the CIA's outrageous spying on Senate staffers and uncooperative behavior with the Senate Intelligence Committee. The speech is long and filled with details. She discusses the torture allegations and the horrific history that led up to this moment:
On March 5, 2009, the committee voted 14-1 to initiate a comprehensive review of the CIA Detention and Interrogation Program. Immediately, we sent a request for documents to all relevant executive branch agencies, chiefly among them the CIA.

The committee’s preference was for the CIA to turn over all responsive documents to the committee’s office, as had been done in previous committee investigations.

Director Panetta proposed an alternative arrangement: to provide literally millions of pages of operational cables, internal emails, memos, and other documents pursuant to the committee’s document requests at a secure location in Northern Virginia. We agreed, but insisted on several conditions and protections to ensure the integrity of this congressional investigation.

Per an exchange of letters in 2009, then-Vice Chairman Bond, then-Director Panetta, and I agreed in an exchange of letters that the CIA was to provide a “stand-alone computer system” with a “network drive” “segregated from CIA networks” for the committee that would only be accessed by information technology personnel at the CIA—who would “not be permitted to” “share information from the system with other [CIA] personnel, except as otherwise authorized by the committee.”

It was this computer network that, notwithstanding our agreement with Director Panetta, was searched by the CIA this past January, and once before which I will later describe.

In addition to demanding that the documents produced for the committee be reviewed at a CIA facility, the CIA also insisted on conducting a multi-layered review of every responsive document before providing the document to the committee. This was to ensure the CIA did not mistakenly provide documents unrelated to the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program or provide documents that the president could potentially claim to be covered by executive privilege.

While we viewed this as unnecessary and raised concerns that it would delay our investigation, the CIA hired a team of outside contractors—who otherwise would not have had access to these sensitive documents—to read, multiple times, each of the 6.2 million pages of documents produced, before providing them to fully-cleared committee staff conducting the committee’s oversight work. This proved to be a slow and very expensive process.

The CIA started making documents available electronically to the committee staff at the CIA leased facility in mid-2009. The number of pages ran quickly to the thousands, tens of thousands, the hundreds of thousands, and then into the millions. The documents that were provided came without any index, without organizational structure. It was a true “document dump” that our committee staff had to go through and make sense of.

In order to piece together the story of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, the committee staff did two things that will be important as I go on:

First, they asked the CIA to provide an electronic search tool so they could locate specific relevant documents for their search among the CIA-produced documents—just like you would use a search tool on the Internet to locate information.

Second, when the staff found a document that was particularly important or that might be referenced in our final report, they would often print it or make a copy of the file on their computer so they could easily find it again. There are thousands of such documents in the committee’s secure spaces at the CIA facility.

Now, prior removal of documents by CIA. In early 2010, the CIA was continuing to provide documents, and the committee staff was gaining familiarity with the information it had already received.

In May of 2010, the committee staff noticed that [certain] documents that had been provided for the committee’s review were no longer accessible. Staff approached the CIA personnel at the offsite location, who initially denied that documents had been removed. CIA personnel then blamed information technology personnel, who were almost all contractors, for removing the documents themselves without direction or authority. And then the CIA stated that the removal of the documents was ordered by the White House. When the committee approached the White House, the White House denied giving the CIA any such order.
It has up to this point failed to intervene on behalf of the Senate, however.

Read the whole speech. And then ask yourself why citizens should be so willing to trust these secret agencies with all of our personal information.

Someone should also ask Dianne Feinstein why average citizens who have done nothing wrong shouldn't be as outraged by the government collecting private information about them simply because it might become useful later on as she is about the Senate staffers' computers being monitored by the CIA? It sounds like she's plenty angry. Like many people, even Senators sometimes don't understand the implications of certain government actions until it happens to them personally. Maybe she now has an inkling of how unprincipled this whole regime is.

Update: John Brennan responded at the Council on Foreign Relations
Brennan says the reason the Senate report on CIA torture has not been released is because the committee itself has not submitted the report to CIA for declassification review.

“It’s not as though we’re holding it back... it’s up to them,” Brennan says.

“I think they missed a lot of important points. ... It’s their prerogative. I’m not going to stand in the way. However I am going to protect sources and methods...”

“Render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s,” Brennan says, showing off his knowledge of the gospels and revealing in his tone that the yoke of oversight does chafe a bit.
I guess he sees himself as Jesus.


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