- CIA Director John Brennan apologized for incident involving intelligence panel
- Allegations involved spying on committee staffers working on a report on CIA interrogations
- The Justice Department probed the matter briefly, but dropped the inquiry
- But the CIA inspector general found some problems for which Brennan apologized
CIA Director John Brennan apologized to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday and admitted the agency spied on computers used by its staffers who prepared an investigation of the controversial post 9/11 CIA interrogation and detention program.
The episode was the subject of an unusual, public dispute between the panel and the spy agency over access to classified information.
The CIA had accused the committee staffers of getting access to internal agency documents and of improperly handling classified material.
The Justice Department looked into it at the request of the CIA and decided there wasn't enough evidence of a crime to warrant further investigation.
IG weighs in
But the CIA's inspector general, a watchdog, found that some agency employees "acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding" reached between the intelligence panel and the CIA in 2009 regarding access to information, the CIA said in a statement.
"The director subsequently informed the (committee) chairman and vice chairman of the findings and apologized to them for such actions by CIA officers as described in the (inspector general's) report," the statement said.
"The director is committed to correcting any shortcomings related to this matter" and is commissioning an Accountability Board to be chaired by former Indiana Democratic senator and Intelligence Committee member Evan Bayh, the CIA said.
"This board will review the (inspector general's) report, conduct interviews as needed, and provide the director with recommendations that, depending on its findings, could include potential disciplinary measures and/or steps to address systemic issues." the CIA added.
The intelligence panel report could be released to the public as soon as next week, congressional sources from each party said this week.
Saxby Chambliss, a Republican of Georgia and the vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said he was disappointed by the whole thing.
"Obviously this is a very serious situation and these are serious violations. The individuals who breached the (committee) computer, I think, are going to have to be dealt with, I think, very harshly by the CIA," he said. "But it's in the director's hands."
Report to be released
The document is a nearly 700-page summary of the full 6,800-page report that was approved a year and a half ago by the committee, which was sharply divided along party lines.
Senators on the committee have indicated the report is critical of the CIA's treatment of terrorism suspects saying it amounted to torture, something CIA officials have denied.
It also finds that harsh interrogation techniques did not help disrupt future attacks as many in intelligence community have claimed.
The documents that prompted the dispute related to an internal review by former CIA Director Leon Panetta and, according to the agency, were intended to help summarize material it was providing to the committee for its investigation of the program.
The documents were plainly labeled as for internal use and were not supposed to be reviewed by the committee, according to the CIA.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein said Senate staffers found the documents in the course of their work that were put in the computer system either on purpose by a whistleblower or perhaps in error, and that they corroborated some of the committee's findings that the agency now says it disagrees with.
She said committee staff routinely sees such documents and didn't violate any classified restrictions.