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CIA Spied on Investigators Working on Upcoming Torture Report

A recent report found that CIA officials spied on Senate intelligence committee investigating the agency’s torture program, a discovery that should serve as a wake-up call to Americans who think oversight mechanisms are working.

August 1, 2014

The CIA has released a summary of an Inspector General report finding that CIA officials improperly accessed the computers of Senate intelligence committee staffers who were investigating the agency’s torture program, and then lied about their actions. The results of the committee’s investigation, some of which may be made public as soon as next week, reportedly include a finding that the CIA misled Congress about the effectiveness of the torture. Elizabeth Goitein and Faiza Patel, co-directors of the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Program, issued the following statements:

“For over a decade, the CIA has managed to stymie efforts to bring the details of its shameful torture program to light,” said Goitein. “The agency has lied to Congress and destroyed the videotapes that showed what truly happened. Now, on the eve of the long overdue release of the Senate’s report, we’ve learned that the CIA went so far as to spy on its congressional overseers and then try to get the committee staff thrown in jail. It’s clear that this agency will go to any lengths, even illegal ones, to thwart the oversight that our Constitution requires. This is a wake-up call for Americans who have been willing to see intelligence agencies entrusted with vast powers on the assumption that they would submit to oversight.”

“It’s about time the Senate intelligence committee took seriously its job of ensuring that the CIA operates within the law,” said Patel. “For too long, the committee’s leadership has accepted the intelligence community’s assurances without question. This report should nudge the committee towards the healthy skepticism that is needed for them to act as a democratic check on abuse by the CIA.”

Goitein wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times about the confrontation between the CIA and the Senate intelligence committee, in which she concluded: “[T]he executive branch is resisting legislative oversight at a time when it has never been more necessary.” Patel also recently opined on the state of intelligence oversight on Al Jazeera America, noting “how easily legislative checks can be thwarted by intelligence agencies” and lamenting how intelligence oversight mechanisms consistently fall short of protecting Americans’ rights.