What others say: Allegations of CIA spying on Senate troubling

It’s tempting to note on how the shoe is on the other foot for the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The latest news on who’s spying on whom has the CIA accused of doing just that on the committee that provides its civilian oversight. A few months back, the National Security Agency was in the spotlight and the committee seemed loathe to rein it in from its spying on U.S. citizens.

President Barack Obama in January announced a series of reforms after revelations of NSA spying — sparked by leaker Edward Snowden — caused a firestorm. A plan to end the NSA’s collection and storage of American’s telephone communications is due on March 28.

But this latest revelation is an equally serious matter. At issue is whether the Central Intelligence Agency tried to thwart the oversight Americans need.

In an extraordinary speech recently, the chair of the intelligence committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., charged that the agency had secretly removed documents from a computer used by her staff investigating the CIA’s interrogation program.

The Senate investigation into a program that clearly involved torture has resulted in a 6,300 page report. It’s still secret. It should be made public as soon as possible.

As part of this Senate investigation, the CIA provided a computer network independent of the agency’s own. Into that, it dumped the documents the committee needed, numbering into the millions. But afterward, committee staffers, Feinstein said, discovered that some documents that had clearly been in the system had been removed.

The CIA has charged that Senate staffers got unauthorized access to an internal review of the detention program. Feinstein says the document was part of the CIA document dump.

Meanwhile, the CIA director denies that spying occurred. The Justice Department is now left to sort it out, along with the CIA’s inspector general.

If these charges are true, Fourth Amendment rights and the executive prohibition on CIA domestic spying have been violated. Suffering the biggest injury, however, would be the U.S. separation of powers that requires the congressional oversight.

With Snowden’s disclosures and the anemic responses, public trust in this oversight has already suffered. We await the results of investigations, but the very fact that one of the intelligence community’s most ardent supporters has made these charges does nothing to refurbish this trust.

Feinstein was right to go public.

— San Antonio Express-News,

March 17

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