WASHINGTON – The head of the CIA has apologized to U.S. lawmakers after an investigation confirmed claims that his officers had “improperly” accessed Senate computers, the agency said Thursday.
In March, CIA Director John Brennan dismissed allegations the agency had spied on Senate Intelligence Committee investigators probing possible torture, insisting: “Nothing could be further that the truth.”
But on Thursday, in an abrupt climb down, the U.S. intelligence agency confirmed that a review by its own inspector general had confirmed that officers had indeed acted beyond their authority.
A spokesman said Brennan had met Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) Chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her deputy “and apologized to them.”
The scandal centers around a computer archive, RDINet, set up by the CIA in a secure building in Virginia to make classified documents available to Senate officials investigating allegations that the agency tortured prisoners between 2002 and 2006.
In March, Feinstein furiously accused the CIA of penetrating this network during the Senate investigation, an apparent breach of the U.S. Constitution’s separation between the legislative and executive arms of government.
On Thursday, the agency admitted “some CIA employees acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding reached between SSCI and the CIA in 2009 regarding access to the RDINet.”
CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said a new inquiry — an “accountability board” with the power to discipline officers — would be forced under the chairmanship of former Sen. Evan Bayh.
The committee’s 2009-2012 investigation produced a secret 6,300-page report into “enhanced interrogation techniques” — including some normally regarded as torture, such as waterboarding — used by the CIA in the first years of the “war on terror.”
In theory, the report should eventually be declassified and made public, but President Barack Obama’s administration has yet to begin the procedure to do so.