In an explosive statement today, US Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, publicly accused the CIA of illegally hacking into US Senate computers and spying on the private communications of Senators and staff.
The charge is a big deal, especially coming from a Democrat, who one might expect to be somewhat friendly to the administration, and the chair of the Intelligence committee, who would best know about intelligence matters affecting the Senate. Also, Feinstein has not been terribly concerned about the NSA spying on Americans, which led CNN’s Jake Tapper to just comment:
“She’s cool with the NSA snooping on you, but the CIA better not be spying on her.”
Feinstein says CIA director John Brennan informed the committee that the CIA had basically hacked into the Senate Intelligence Committees computers, without the knowledge or consent of the Senate, in order to see if the staff had documents it wasn’t cleared to have.
In conducting its spying on the Senate, Feinstein says CIA employees went through the committee’s internal shared computer network, meaning, their own private communications amongst themselves. In other worse, the CIA was spying on US Senators’ private communications, and those of their staffs.
Here’s what Feinstein said, see video below:
Without prior notification or approval, CIA personnel had conducted a search, that was John Brennan’s word, of the committee computers at the off-site facility. This search involved not only a search of documents provided the committee by the CIA, but also a search of the stand-alone and walled-off committee network drive, containing the committee’s own internal work product and communications.
So the CIA hacked the US Senate, and then browsed through private internal communications involving US Senators.
The LA Times points out that the CIA director didn’t exactly deny Feinstein’s allegations:
Brennan, at a previously scheduled event a couple of hours after Feinstein made her statement, offered carefully worded remarks that did not dispute the actions Feinstein said had taken place, but did deny that they constituted “spying” on the Senate.