Yesterday, details emerged about the tactics used by the CIA to inappropriately access a computer network used by the Senate Intelligence Committee during its review of the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program. As reported by the New York Times, an internal investigation found that its officers created a fake online identity to access committee staff’s computers and tried to cover their tracks.
When the spying allegations first surfaced, CIA Director John O. Brennan called them “spurious allegations … that are wholly unsupported by the facts.” Yet in reply to a question about whether the investigation’s findings posed a credibility issue for Brennan, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest responded “Not at all.”
While the White House stood by the embattled CIA chief, Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) called for his resignation. Udall said that the CIA’s spying was “not only illegal, but it violates the U.S. Constitution’s requirement of separation of powers” and that “there must be consequences.” Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) also weighed in, calling the actions “appalling and deeply threatening to our system of checks and balances.”
This is only the latest episode in a pattern of behavior by an agency that refuses to admit its mistakes and continually seeks to obscure the truth. One week ago, it was reported that Brennan was coordinating with former CIA Director George Tenet, who presided over the torture program, to formulate a response that would discredit the committee’s findings. As Human Right First’s Raha Wala said, confirmation of the spying allegations was “yet another piece of evidence that the CIA has systematically mislead Congress, the White House, and the Department of Justice about its brutal and unlawful interrogation program.”
Instead of focusing on defending Brennan, the President needs to live up to his promises of oversight and transparency. With the impending release of the executive summary of the committee’s report on the post-9/11 torture program, the President has the chance to do this. He should seize this opportunity and direct Brennan to recommit the CIA to a policy that condemns torture absolutely, complies with congressional oversight, and upholds the truth.