Chambliss: Senate Intelligence panel reviewing CIA accusations

The Senate Intelligence Committee is conducting an internal review of accusations that the CIA improperly accessed computers used by committee staffers investigating the agency's controversial interrogation program, the panel's top Republican said Wednesday.


Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.). (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said that he and Republicans on the committee are not fully aware of the situation behind the accusations made by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the committee's chairman, because they did not participate in the investigation into the CIA's interrogation of terrorism detainees.

"Both parties have made allegations against one another and even speculated to each others' actions. But there are still a lot of unanswered questions must be addressed," he said.

Chambliss made his comments Wednesday afternoon during brief remarks on the Senate floor, saying he was speaking out "reluctantly" on the matter. He spoke out in response to accusations made Wednesday by Feinstein, who used a similar Senate floor speech to accuse the CIA of breaking laws and breaching constitutional principles in an alleged effort to undermine the panel’s multi-year investigation of a controversial interrogation program.

Feinstein accused the agency of ­secretly removing documents, searching computers used by the committee and attempting to intimidate congressional investigators by requesting an FBI inquiry of their conduct. CIA Director John Brennan later strong disputed the charges.

In his remarks, Chambliss noted that no forensics have been run on the computers used by committee investigators at a secret Northern Virginia facility set up by a CIA contractor for the committee's investigation. Now that the situation is now being investigated by the Justice Department, "it may take us awhile before any actual factual findings be reached and a satisfactory resolution of these matters can be achieved," he said. "It may even call for some special investigator to be named to review the entire factual situation. Eventually we will get to the bottom of this, but today I cannot make a statement that will reflect what actually occurred and therefore what recommendations we ought to make as we move forward."

Chambliss asked his colleagues to refrain from speaking publicly about the ongoing probe, saying such matters "should remain within the purview of the confines of the intelligence committee."

His comments came a few hours after House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) also declined to weigh in on the matter saying they were awaiting the findings of the CIA's internal investigation.

Here is a transcript of Chambliss's comments:

Based on press reports today, yesterday and even last week, allegations have been made regarding the Central Intelligence Agency’s actions towards the committee as well as staff and members' actions on the Senate Intelligence Committee towards the CIA. The reason I feel compelled to speak on this matter is the following: Although people speak as though if we know all of the pertinent facts surrounding this matter, the truth is, we do not.

The Republican committee members on the Senate Intelligence Committee and staff were not involved in the underlying investigation of the detainee and interrogation report. We do not know the actual facts concerning the CIA’s alleged actions or all of the specific details about the actions by the committee staff regarding the draft of what is now referred to as the Panetta internal review document.

Both parties have made allegations against one another and even speculated to each others' actions. But there are still a lot of unanswered questions must be addressed. No forensics have been run on the CIA computers, or as my colleagues refer to them, as the SSCI computers, at the CIA facility, to know what actually happened, either regarding the alleged CIA search or the circumstances under which the committee came into possession of the Panetta internal review document.

Given that both of these matters have been now referred to the Department of Justice it may take us awhile before any actual factual findings be reached and a satisfactory resolution of these matters can be achieved. It may even call for some special investigator to be named to review the entire factual situation. Eventually we will get to the bottom of this, but today I cannot make a statement that will reflect what actually occurred and therefore what recommendations we ought to make as we move forward. Right now our committee members are conducting an internal assessment of the facts and circumstances involved in both of these matters.

This will be an ongoing process that should not be described or discussed in the public domain, but like all other committee matters should remain within the purview of the confines of the intelligence committee. Today I simply wanted everybody to know where I stand on this matter and how we need to get to the ground truth of these very important matters.

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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