The CIA is investigating whether its officers improperly monitored members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which oversees the intelligence agency, U.S. officials said Wednesday.
The CIA inspector general is looking into the circumstances surrounding the committee's investigation into allegations of CIA abuse in a Bush-era detention and interrogation program, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told reporters. The allegations include whether CIA officers improperly monitored Senate investigators and possibly accessed the computers they were using, two officials familiar with the investigation said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.
The allegations come at a time when the Obama administration is trying to regain public trust after classified details about widespread surveillance of Americans were disclosed by a former National Security Agency systems analyst. The most recent allegations do not involve the NSA spying on Americans. But they do raise questions about the fundamental oversight of U.S. spy agencies by Congress and whether there were efforts to thwart it.
The allegations were first reported by McClatchy Newspapers and The New York Times.
At issue is whether the CIA violated an agreement made with the Senate Intelligence Committee about monitoring the committee's use of CIA computers, according to McClatchy's account. The CIA provided the computers to congressional staffers in a secure room at is headquarters so that the committee could review millions of pages of top secret documents in the course of its investigation into the CIA's use of torture during the Bush administration, it said.
CIA Director John Brennan was strongly critical of the Senate claims.
"I am deeply dismayed that some members of the Senate have decided to make spurious allegations about CIA actions that are wholly unsupported by the facts," he said in a statement issued Wednesday night. "I am very confident that the appropriate authorities reviewing this matter will determine where wrongdoing, if any, occurred in either the executive branch or legislative branch.
"Until then, I would encourage others to refrain from outbursts that do a disservice to the important relationship that needs to be maintained between intelligence officials and congressional overseers," he said.
The Justice Department would neither confirm nor deny that the CIA inspector general referred the allegations to the Justice Department for investigation.