The head of the US Senate Intelligence Committee says the Central Intelligence Agency appears to have violated the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution.
In a speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California accused the CIA of violating the Fourth Amendment, which bans unreasonable searches and seizures, and several federal laws by illegally searching computers of Senate staff members involved in an investigation of a controversial CIA interrogation program.
She also accused the spy agency of violating a presidential executive order that prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches and surveillance, adding that the case has been referred to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution.
“I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution,” Feinstein said.
For the first time, she publicly provided details how the spy agency secretly removed a number of documents from computers used by her panel, which was preparing a 6,300-page report detailing torture techniques, including water-boarding, wall-slamming and shackling, used by the agency under the presidency of George W. Bush.
“On two occasions, CIA personnel electronically removed committee access to CIA documents after providing them to the committee,” she said. “This was done without the knowledge or approval of committee members and staff and in violation of our written agreements.”
Feinstein also stated that the CIA is trying to intimidate the Senate committee, adding: “I am not taking it lightly.”
Last week, the CIA’s inspector general, David Buckley, asked the Justice Department to investigate allegations that the agency spied on the Senate intelligence panel.
The allegations are related to a closed-door fight between the CIA and its congressional overseers over the 6,300-page report.
According to McClatchy, several knowledgeable people have said that the CIA has monitored computers used by people who helped prepare the Senate’s “torture” report.
The report, which cost $40 million and took nearly four years to compose, “uncovers startling details about the CIA detention and interrogation program and raises critical questions about intelligence operations and oversight,” according to Feinstein.
In addition to detailing the CIA’s illegal practices, the report also reveals that the spy agency misled the White House, the Department of Justice, and Congress about the “effectiveness” of its controversial torture techniques.
The Senate panel reviewed more than six million pages of CIA documents and other records on the agency’s controversial programs in order to compose the report.
The CIA has not accepted some of the report’s conclusions and has resisted the push from some of the Senate panel’s members, like Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colorado), for the release of the report.
In a letter to President Barack Obama on March 4, Udall complained about the CIA’s efforts to block the de-classification of the report and its “unprecedented action against the committee,” referring to the agency’s alleged spying on the Senate panel.
“It is essential that the Committee be able to do its oversight work — consistent with our constitutional principles of separation of powers — without the CIA posing impediments or obstacles as it is today,” he wrote.