WASHINGTON – Sen. Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, blasted the agency Wednesday for refusing to declassify a Senate report on its past detention and interrogation programs, and suggested that the agency was overstepping its bounds with Congress.
Heinrich’s criticism came amid reports this week in The New York Times and the McClatchy news service that the CIA may have accessed Senate Intelligence Committee computers to secretly track the panel’s inquiry into the agency’s now-defunct methods, which included waterboarding.
“The Senate Intelligence Committee oversees the CIA, not the other way around,” Heinrich said in a statement Wednesday.
CIA Director John Brennan, asked to respond to Heinrich’s statement, fired back at what he said were senators making “spurious allegations about CIA actions.”
“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,” Brennan said. “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.”
Heinrich has repeatedly accused the CIA of stonewalling the release of the committee’s 6,000-page report, which he says contains information Americans have a right to review. Heinrich told the Journal in December that the study revealed that the CIA’s now-defunct detention and interrogation techniques resulted in the torture of dozens of individuals for little or no intelligence value.
“Since I joined the committee (in January 2013), the CIA has refused to engage in good faith on the committee’s study of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program,” Heinrich said. “Instead, the CIA has consistently tried to cast doubt on the accuracy and quality of this report by publicly making false representations about what is and is not in it.”
The New York Times reported Wednesday that the CIA’s inspector general is looking into allegations that the agency improperly monitored the committee’s work. Also Wednesday, Brennan, in response to a query from Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., wrote that the agency is subject to the Computer Crimes and Abuse Act, which stipulates that it is illegal to “intentionally access a computer without authorization … and thereby obtain information from any department or agency of the United States.”
But Brennan also wrote that the act “does not prohibit any lawfully authorized investigative, protective, or intelligence activity … of an intelligence agency of the United States.”
Heinrich, who declined a Journal interview on the subject Wednesday, also called on the CIA to declassify a report on the agency’s detention and interrogation techniques compiled by former Director Leon Panetta.
“The public must be given a complete and accurate accounting of this dark period in our history by declassifying not only the full committee study, but the Panetta review as well,” Heinrich said. “Only then can the American people understand the scope and impact of the CIA’s actions, and hopefully, future generations will learn from these mistakes.”