(CNN)Five CIA employees who improperly accessed data belonging to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will not face disciplinary measures as they "acted reasonable under the complex and unprecedented circumstances in investigating a potential security breach in the highly classified shared computer network," according to an agency accountability board.
No penalty for CIA employees accused of spying on Senate
Chaired by former Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Indiana, alongside former Obama White House attorney Bob Bauer and three senior CIA officers, the board was convened in August 2014 by CIA Director John Brennan and tasked with investigating the misconduct and putting forward recommendations to ensure that "future instances of the miscommunication and confusion that led to this controversy" do not arise again.
The unusually public dispute between the Senate and the CIA over access to classified information began last year when the Senate Intelligence Committee began preparing a report that exposed the CIA's controversial detention and interrogation programs.
The CIA, in turn, accused Senate committee staffers of getting access to internal agency documents and improperly handling classified material, a charge the Justice Department determined was lacking evidence to warrant a further investigation.
But the CIA's Inspector General found that some agency employees had acted inconsistently to agreed upon parameters surrounding access to the information, leading to Brennan issuing an apology for its employees actions and commissioning the accountability board chaired by Bayh.
Citing no formal agreement or common understanding referenced by the Inspector General, the board found that "no course of action was free of potential complication or conflict." The chain of accusations have culminated in the board proposing systematic recommendations -- which the CIA has agreed to -- that would govern the use of shared computer networks with access to classified information, but leave it to the agency to lay the boundaries and enforce security procedures.
According to the board, which finished its investigation in mid-December of last year, further stated that "none of the five individuals under review by the board was responsible for this mistake, and two of them -- the most senior -- had expressly counseled that care be taken to avoid accessing [Senate Intelligence Committee] work product."