May 8, 2015

Heinrich wants CIA chief to pledge to not access Senate computers

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Three U.S. Senators asked CIA director John Brennan to acknowledge that the agency improperly accessed Senate files and want the director to pledge that it will not happen again.

CIA logoU.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., was one of the three Senators to sign onto the letter, along with Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii. All three are members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“It is vitally important for the American public to have confidence that senior intelligence officials respect US laws and the Constitution, including our democratic system of checks and balances,” the letter to Brennan said. “In our judgment your handling of this matter has undermined that confidence. We call on you to acknowledge that this search was improper, and commit that these unacceptable actions will not be repeated.”

The searches of the computers came as the committee was investigating the CIA for torture of detainees. The report was released in December of 2014.

Heinrich slammed Brennan when the access of the computers was revealed. Heinrich and Wyden have been some of the more vocal critics of the CIA in recent years.

In July of 2014, the CIA admitted it had accessed computers of members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Brennan apologized.

CIA Director John Brennan apologized to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and other committee leaders and said he was “committed to correcting any shortcomings” related to the incident, a spokesman for the spy agency said.

Brennan has created an “accountability board,” to be chaired by former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), to review the inspector general’s findings and recommend disciplinary action, if necessary, spokesman Dean Boyd said.

Feinstein, in a statement, called the apology and creation of the accountability board “positive first steps.” Her restrained endorsement suggested that the conflict between the agency and its congressional overseers may continue.

The Senators want more.

“In June 2014, senior officials from the FBI, NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence all testified that it would be inappropriate for their agencies to secretly search Senate files without external authorization,” the letter reads. “To date, however, there has been no public acknowledgement from you or any other CIA official (outside the Office of Inspector General) that this search was improper, nor even a commitment that the CIA will not conduct such searches in the future.”

“This is entirely unacceptable.”

The full letter is available below.

The Senators also said they attached a classified letter “on another topic” where they wanted Brennan to “correct the public record.”

That letter was, obviously, not attached to the letter distributed to media.

Letter to John Brennan