In March, 2014, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D, CA), Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, publicly accused the CIA of secretly removing documents from the Committee, searching computers used by the Committee, and attempting to intimidate congressional investigators by requesting an FBI inquiry into their conduct. The Committee had been investigating the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. As part of the Committee’s investigation, it was given what the CIA assured was a secure, walled-off computer on the CIA’s premises so that the Committee could document its investigation as it reviewed agency files.
Despite the CIA’s assurances that this drive would only be accessible to Committee staff, the agency accessed and searched the Committee’s files in that drive. CIA Director John Brennan disputed charges that the agency had conducted an improper search, stating, “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
On July 31, 2014, the CIA confirmed that the CIA’s Inspector General had conducted an investigation and concluded the agency had “improperly” accessed Senate computers. Public statements by the agency indicate that the CIA Inspector General found “that some CIA employees acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding reached” between the agency and the Committee.
Media reports indicate that CIA Director John Brennan had briefed Senators Feinstein and Chambliss (R-GA) about the Inspector General report, and that “The Director… apologized to them for such actions by CIA officers as described in the OIG [Office of Inspector General] Report.” Senator Feinstein issued a public statement, acknowledging the report and Director Brennan’s apology: “The investigation confirmed what I said on the Senate floor in March – CIA personnel inappropriately searched Senate Intelligence Committee computers in violation of an agreement we had reached, and, I believe, in violation of the constitutional separation of powers.” Director Brennan apologized for these actions and submitted the IG report to an accountability board. Senator Ron Wyden, who also sits on the Intelligence committee, remarked that, “The CIA inspector general has confirmed what senators have been saying all along: The CIA conducted an unauthorized search of Senate files, and attempted to have Senate staff prosecuted for doing their jobs. Director Brennan’s claims to the contrary were simply not true.”
On July 31, 2014, the CIA released a one-page summary of the Inspector General’s report. This summary does not include essential details, for instance: the level of seniority of the agency officials who accessed the Committee computers, the number of times the computers were accessed, specifically what files or documents were accessed, what was done with the improperly accessed data from the computers, and what remedies the Inspector General recommends.
EPIC also has a strong interest in domestic surveillance. In 2012 EPIC sought and obtained records revealing NYPD and CIA collaboration on the surveillance of Muslims and persons of Arab descent in New York, New Jersey, and elsewhere. EPIC has also sought and obtained records regarding justifications for warrantless surveillance of international telephone and Internet communications on American soil, including mostly unredacted version of two key memos by former Justice Department officials.
EPIC’s Freedom of Information Act Request
On July 31, 2014, EPIC sent a FOIA request to the CIA. EPIC asked for the following agency records: “all final reports of the CIA Inspector General regarding the CIA’s involvement in the penetration of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s computer network” as well as “executive summaries and related investigatory documents.”
After receiving no response, EPIC filed a FOIA complaint, EPIC v. CIA, No. 14-01645 (Filed Oct. 1, 2014 D.D.C.), seeking the CIA Inspector General Report on October 1, 2014.