Washington, D.C. – Reports that the CIA may have unlawfully monitored Senate staff working on a Senate intelligence committee inquiry into the CIA’s post-9/11 detention and interrogation program, if true, represent another example of stonewalling and inappropriate intrusion by the CIA into the oversight function of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. Human Rights First calls on the White House to engage in the democratic process and support full declassification of the committee’s study on the program immediately.
“These allegations, if true, show outrageous behavior on the part of the CIA,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. “There is no justification for the White House to continue to defer to the CIA on this matter. American taxpayers did not spend $40 million, and the Committee did not spend six years of professional service to produce a report that will sit in a vault. The White House should immediately and fully cooperate with the committee’s oversight efforts, including by supporting declassification and public release of its 6,300-plus page study on the CIA’s interrogation program.”
The study is the culmination of an oversight effort that the Senate intelligence committee initiated five years ago, today. Lack of cooperation from the CIA and White House has complicated efforts to finalize the study.
A McClatchy investigation has revealed that the CIA Inspector General has asked the Justice Department to open a criminal probe into allegations that the CIA improperly and unlawfully spied on Senate intelligence committee staff in the course of ongoing oversight of the CIA’s former interrogation program, which involved torture and other forms of abusive interrogation tactics. The investigation comes at a time in which the Obama administration is embroiled in controversy over NSA spying.
“Given all the controversy associated with the administration’s surveillance policies, the President can’t afford to let this slide,” added Wala. “The White House should demonstrate its commitment to the democratic process and pledge full support for the Justice Department’s investigation into this matter, as well as the committee’s oversight efforts into the CIA’s use of torture after 9/11. Our democracy – and indeed U.S. global leadership – is strengthened by oversight and transparency. It will be seriously weakened if those who investigate government behavior are unlawfully monitored.”
According to the New York Times, the CIA may have begun spying on Senate intelligence committee staff when it believed the staff had discovered an internal CIA review that Senator Mark Udall says supports the senate intelligence committee study and contradicts the CIA’s own official response to the study–a potentially embarrassing development for the CIA. The CIA reportedly alleges that knowledge of this internal review was gained through improper access to CIA databases.