Harry Reid Orders Computer Review in Intel Spat Between CIA and Senate

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2014-03_fb6e198252.jpgBrendan Smialowski/Getty Images (NEW YORK) -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has asked the Senate’s Sergeant-at-Arms to conduct a forensic examination of the computer systems that senators allege were illegally accessed by the CIA earlier this year. Reid’s move is the latest in the fight between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee. Last week, Senator Dianne Feinstein alleged that the CIA illegally accessed computers used by committee staffers.

CIA Director John Brennan denied the allegation. CIA lawyers have referred a case to the Justice Department, maintaining that Senate staffers illegally accessed an internal classified review of interrogation programs -- the so-called “Panetta Report.” In separate letters to Brennan and Attorney General Eric Holder Wednesday, Reid called that accusation “absurd” and detailed his plans for the Senate’s Sergeant-at-arms to conduct a forensic examination of the computer systems used by the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time in question.

“To my knowledge, the CIA has produced no evidence to support its claims that Senate committee staff who have no technical training somehow hacked into the CIA’s highly secure classified networks, an allegation that appears on its face to be patently absurd,” Reid wrote in the letter to Brennan. Reid said he called for the investigation because of his “responsibility to protect the independence and effectiveness of our institution.” “The CIA’s decision to access the resources and work product of the legislative branch without permission is absolutely indefensible, regardless of the context,” he wrote to Holder. “This action has serious separation of powers implications. It is immaterial whether this action was taken in response to concerns about the Committee’s possession of a disputed document; this stands as a categorically different and more serious breach.”

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