When the CIA got caught spying on Senate staffers working on the 6,000 page torture report, John Brennan, who heads the agency, denied the transgression. "As far as the allegations of the CIA hacking into computers, nothing could be further from the truth," he said on March 11, 2014. "That's beyond the scope of reason." Four months later, the CIA Inspector General found that the CIA did, in fact, improperly spy on the Senate intelligence committee. After that, Brennan apologized.
Now the public can read an extraordinary, recently released memo written by the unnamed CIA lawyer who led the effort to improperly monitor Senate overseers, outraging Senator Dianne Feinstein and prompting calls for a new CIA director. The document gives insight into the CIA's tortured logic for its actions and it raises new questions about Brennan's truthfulness in March of last year.
The memo states that on January 13, 2014, the unnamed CIA lawyer met with Brennan and at least a half-dozen others. They briefed Brennan on their efforts to clandestinely probe a computer system used by the Senate intelligence committee staff. They wanted to see if it contained a review of CIA torture ordered by former CIA Director Leon Panetta. "I informed the Director of my view that the conduct in question could be criminal, and that the Agency—based solely on its current understanding, that unauthorized documents existed on the SSCI side of the system and had been repeatedly accessed—had an obligation to answer the question of whether there had been a security violation or potential violation of law that should be referred to the Department of Justice," the unnamed lawyer writes.