Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

March 26, 2014

Another View: Did CIA keep tabs on legislative branch?

It’s hard to know what to make of claims the CIA spied on U.S. Senate staffers.

That’s because the specifics of the allegations are hidden from public view. And with top CIA officials denying anything of the sort took place, the facts of the matter are in dispute.

At issue is an investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee into the Central Intelligence Agency’s treatment of detainees believed to have links to terrorism. A key concern in all of this involves allegations that torture may have been used against some detainees.

The committee began its probe in 2009 and it received access to 6.2 million pages of records from the CIA. In December of 2012, the Intelligence Committee approved a 6,300-page report prepared by its staff on the matter. And the CIA submitted a response to it.

The report and other documentation have not been made public.

As part of the process (of) developing the report, Senate staffers were provided access to CIA computers in order to conduct their research. Allegations made ... by Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Diane Feinstein charged that the CIA gained access to these computers to monitor what the committee was doing.

Meanwhile, some news organizations have reported the CIA was concerned Senate staffers were using secret material inappropriately and this was being assessed.

From the public’s point of view, much of this looks like a squabble between government entities at odds with each other. And that’s probably a big part of it.

But there are also constitutional issues here, because Congress is its own branch of government and the CIA operates under the executive. If the CIA or any agency is inappropriately monitoring the activities of Congress, that is potentially a serious problem.

Interestingly, this dispute arises in the aftermath of complaints the National Security Agency, another office under the executive branch, has been using its spying powers to monitor the communications activities of average Americans.

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