Home » How John Brennan led the CIA to hack the Senate

How John Brennan led the CIA to hack the Senate

by Tim S

Former CIA Director John Brennan said yesterday that President Donald Trump should be removed from office due to his mental stability. It Brennan who’s mental stability- and loyalty to the United States and it’s Constitution are in question.

As CIA Director Brennan penetrated and spied on a US Senate Committee investigating torture by the CIA.

“Patently absurd,” said Senator Harry Reid. “It violates the US constitution,” is how Senator Mark Udall described it. Senator Angus King of Maine went even further and said that “it violated both the spirit and the letter of the constitutional separation of powers.”

It is hard to believe that these Democrats are talking about the Obama appointed CIA chief John Brennan under whose leadership the CIA hacked the computers of their Congressional overseers.

It happened in 2014 after the CIA suspected that the team from the Senate Intelligence Committee, investigating the CIA’s claim that their enhanced interrogation techniques or torture led to valuable information, had gained access to a classified report called the Panetta Review. Hackers from the CIA penetrated the Senate side of computers by using a fake id to perform keyword searches and read the emails of their Senate investigators. They were doing so under Brennan’s order who tasked to use “use whatever means necessary” to find out how Senate got hold of that document.

That was in clear violation of the committee’s relationship with the CIA laid down when the Senate started their investigation in 2009. Leon Panetta was heading the spy agency at the time.

“When I spoke on the Senate floor in March 2014, I outlined the agreement between Director Panetta and the Intelligence Committee that committee staff would review CIA documents in an offsite CIA facility and their work would not be monitored,” Senator Dianne Feinstein said to VICE News. “These documents and letters prove the agreement existed, an agreement unfortunately broken by the CIA.”

Brennan denied the existence of any such agreement (even though he acknowledged that it did in an unsent letter which was disclosed to VICE News by the CIA in error) but he did appoint the CIA’s Office of Inspector General to examine the conduct of his staff.

“When the facts come out on this, I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong,” Brennan said at the time.

Brennan was reacting to Feinstein remarks that she made on the Senate floor that how the matter was resolved “will show whether the Intelligence Committee can be effective in monitoring and investigating our nation’s intelligence activities, or whether our work can be thwarted by those we oversee.”

The OIG’s report, however, vindicated Feinstein and confirmed that the CIA secretly monitored the work of the congressional committee. The report also disclosed that the CIA sent a baseless criminal referral to the Justice Department to prosecute a member of the Senate staff who they claimed hacked into the CIA network to obtain the Panetta Review.

There was no “factual basis” to support the criminal referral, said the OIG. Instead, it was based on “inaccurate information.”

CIA had to accept fault.

“Some CIA employees acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding reached between [the committee] and the CIA in 2009 regarding access to the RDINet,” said CIA spokesman Dean Boyd. Brennan apologizes to the Senators in a private meeting, but he never did it in a written statement as the Senators wanted him to so that it becomes part of the official record.

How did the Senate get hold of the Panetta Review?

Documents disclosed to VICE News by CIA under the Freedom of Information Act indicate that a technical glitch in the network that the CIA created for the Senate to study CIA documents related to torture revealed the Panetta Review.

“On November 9, 2010, a Senate staffer discovered the Panetta Review while searching on the committee’s side of the walled-off network — RDINet — it shared with the CIA at a building in Northern Virginia leased by the agency. According to the CIA, the Panetta Review wasn’t supposed to be shared with the Senate committee. But according to officials knowledgeable about the situation, the Senate staffer who discovered the review didn’t know this. (The Panetta Review was found on the same day that the Justice Department announced that a special prosecutor would not pursue criminal charges against CIA personnel who destroyed nearly 100 interrogation videotapes, one of which showed a CIA captive being waterboarded. The destruction of the videotapes is what led the Senate Intelligence Committee to launch its review of the CIA’s torture program.)” wrote Jason Leopold.

Britain’s The Guardian, however, reported that the review was left on the Senate side of the network by “someone at the CIA.” Feinstein also indicated that it was the doing of a whistleblower in her floor speech.

What is the Panetta Review?

Panetta commissioned the review in parallel to the Senate investigation. It was disbanded for some reason, and its finding was never released. News reports indicate that the findings of the review were so worrisome for the CIA that the agency decided to classify it as a “deliberative” draft to shield it from FOIA requests.

What prompted the CIA to suspect that Senate has got hold of the Panetta Review?

Feinstein alerted Brennan in November 2013 when she demanded in a letter that he turn over the Panetta Review. The next month, Udall publicly asked that the review is turned over in the confirmation hearing of CIA’s general counsel, Caroline Krass. Udall then sent a letter to Obama in January 2014 demanding the same. A week later Brennan called an urgent meeting with Feinstein and Senator Saxby Chambliss where he disclosed for the first time that the CIA had broken into Senate computers a few days back. That set off a chain of private and public meetings simmering the tensions between public officials and the spy agency.

In April 2014, Senate released the declassified version of their investigation. Parts of the report “concluded that the techniques yielded little valuable information and that C.I.A. officials consistently misled the White House and Congress about the efficacy of the techniques.” Republicans who had rejected the report as “partisan smear and without credibility” joined Democrats to embrace it.

Brennan had set up a board to examine the OIG’s finding and recommend “potential disciplinary measures” and “steps to address systemic issues.” In December 2014, the board, led by a former Democratic senator, Evan Bayh of Indiana, overturned the OIG’s report and said that no agreement ever existed between the Senate and the CIA that stipulated that the CIA will not monitor the work of the Senate. The board added that because the Senate staffer accepted a pop-up message every time they logged onto their computers indicating they needed to consent to monitor the CIA never “spied” on them. The board acknowledged that there was an understanding between Panetta and Feinstein but that only protected the Senate’s work and not the walled-off computer network that the CIA created for the Senate investigators.

The Obama White House defended Brennan throughout the fiasco.

“He is somebody who has a very difficult job, who does that job extraordinarily well,” the White House press secretary said of Brennan.

To everyone’s surprise and to the astonishment of Harry Reid who was on the phone with Obama when he said that the CIA was right to do what it did because Senate staffers stole their documents.

“Mr. President,” Reid said, “I wish you could hear yourself.”

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