CIA-Senate Spat: Battle of the Branches
On the surface, the battle between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA looks to be a classic he said/she said story. Did the CIA improperly monitor computers used by committee staffers as they investigated the agency’s earlier torture program, as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) alleges? Or did the staffers help themselves to CIA documents they were not authorized to possess, as agency officials counter?
The problem with this narrative is that it implies a false equivalence between the two claims. Even if the CIA’s version of events is accurate, it is the agency’s conduct that should concern us.
The documents at the heart of the dispute are draft versions of the so-called Panetta review, an internal analysis of the CIA’s torture program conducted for then-CIA chief Leon Panetta. The review’s conclusions reportedly validate the findings of the Senate committee’s own study — namely, that the brutality of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” was unjustified by any national security benefit.
This is particularly notable because the CIA’s official written response to the committee’s work contested the very findings that the Panetta review purportedly supports. (All of these documents remain classified, but insiders have disclosed their general content to reporters.)