Udall/CIA “Hacking” Flap Heats Up

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

‚ÄčAs the Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe reports, a fight over the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee's oversight of Central Intelligence Agency detention and interrogations programs, which prominently features Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, is escalating rapidly:

The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday sharply accused the CIA of violating federal law and undermining the constitutional principle of congressional oversight as she detailed publicly for the first time how the agency secretly removed documents from computers used by her panel to investigate a controversial interrogation program.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said that the situation amounted to attempted intimidation of congressional investigators, adding: “I am not taking it lightly.”

She confirmed that an internal agency investigation of the action has been referred to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution. And she said that the CIA appears to have violated the Fourth Amendment, which bars unreasonable searches and seizures, as well as various federal laws and a presidential executive order that prevents the agency from conducting domestic searches and surveillance.

She has sought an apology and recognition that the CIA search of the committee’s computers was inappropriate, she said. “I have received neither,” she added.

Here is Sen. Udall's statement on developments today:

"I applaud Chairman Feinstein for setting the record straight today on the Senate floor about the CIA's actions to subvert congressional oversight," Udall said. "The actions the chairman outlined are the latest events that illustrate why I directly pushed CIA Director Brennan to acknowledge the flaws in and misrepresentations about the CIA's brutal and ineffective detention and interrogation program. Unfortunately, the CIA responded by trying to hide the truth from the American people about this program and undermine the Senate Intelligence Committee's oversight role by illegally searching committee computers. The U.S. Constitution is clear and Coloradans agree: The separation of powers and aggressive oversight are fundamental to our democracy, and Coloradans can count on me to continue to protect these foundational pillars no matter who is in the White House." [Pols emphasis]

For its part, the CIA denies everything:

Shortly after Feinstein's speech, CIA director John Brennan denied her allegations.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," Brennan said at an event in Washington. "We wouldn't do that."

It should be noted that Sen. Udall has consistently tacked to the left of Sen. Dianne Feinstein on oversight issues related to intelligence and national security. Feinstein has been widely criticized for being overly deferential to the CIA and NSA alike as chair of the Intelligence Committee–especially after the recent revelations by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden. So to see Udall and Feinstein on the same page publicly challenging the CIA is pretty good evidence that this was indeed a serious breach.

In addition to the political benefits we've discussed for Sen. Udall in an election year, it's important to have members of President Barack Obama's own party challenging excesses in the name of national security just as they did during the Bush administration (when most of these surveillance and detention programs either came into existence or were greatly expanded). Anyone who legitimately cares about personal liberty should be every bit as upset with these alleged abuses occurring under Obama as they were under the Republican administration of George W. Bush–and obviously, that works in reverse for Republicans who are suddenly up in arms about surveillance they didn't mind when a Republican was in the White House.

Udall, unlike many of his peers, can truthfully say he has been consistent on this issue without fear or favor.

48 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Ralphie says:

    Funny how Feinstein thought it was just peachy when it was only Little People who were being spied on by the government.

  2. BlueCat says:

    You're right about Feinstein, Ralphie but kudos to Udall for his long standing consistently strong stand on overreach by our intel and security agencies that doesn't pass the smell test. Obviously this isn't a new concern that just popped into his head for political purposes. He has an established record on this issue. But it's going to be a very positive issue for appealing to a large chunk of indie voters who share these concerns. It also shows him as a man of principle not blindly devoted to supporting a Dem administration's policies.

    There are those for whom any R's connection with the strict anti-choice movement will be a negative and those for whom Udall's connection with ACA will be a negative. Kind of a wash.  But, as noted by ColPols, unlike with any R, on this issue nobody can say his view changes according to who's in the WH. This should be his signature issue going into the elections. 

  3. DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

    Agree with both Ralphie (that was my first thought) and Blue Cat (Udall has been leading on this all along).

    • Andrew Carnegie says:

      But did Udall go on the floor of the Senate to do anything about it?

      Feinstein has more cojones than Udall, which is sad.

      • ModeratusModeratus says:

        Dead right. Udall had numerous chances to take a stand, and he didn't. He's an opportunist who only cares when it's good politics.

      • Sen. Udall has been the statesman in all of his questioning of NSA and CIA wrongdoing. He has pushed, gently, without crossing over the boundaries set by the law and without being boorish.

        You don't have to make a floor speech on the Senate to be effective; Udall's letter to the President the other day got quite enough attention in the national press and elsewhere, and Feinstein's surprising statement today is the result.

        BTW – Udall did give a floor speech today in conjunction with Feinstein's, showing growing unity in the Senate Intelligence Committee for confronting US intelligence agency abuses.

      • ZappateroZappatero says:

        Udall has been complaining consistently and loudly and bravely about this stuff for years, on the senate floor and elsewhere. And even though many on your side think torture is just swell, we won't allow anyone to waterboard you into admitting the truth about Udall, just cuz we're such nice, liberal Citizens. cheeky

      • roccoprahn says:

        Yeah, he did.

  4. Ralphie says:

    Will someone please tell the shameless Robber Baron that Feinstein is the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and it doesn't have a damned thing to do with cojones?

    • ModeratusModeratus says:

      Feinstein is more responsible on national security than Udall. Always has been always will be.

      There, I just complimented a Democrat.

      • ct says:

        IOW…everything between now and November that has to do with the US Senate will be Mark Udall's fault if there is any negative that can be spun from it.  CIA spying on the US SEnate…MARK UDALL!  Lies made up by Koch astroturfers crumbing in the light of day?  MARK UDALL!  Get use to it Polsters…  There is but one note to be sung by the chorus of trolls.

        • Andrew Carnegie says:

          CT,  That is not true.

          I was going to nominate him for an award on father's day.

          Being at a fundraiser while his kid was facing a judge deserves some kind of an award.

           

          • Ralphie says:

            I'm widely regarded by all who know me as a serious asshole.  Yet I've always managed to keep candidates' kids out of politics.

            What's YOUR excuse?

          • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

            I'm going to ignore any future posts by AC on Mark's son, Jed.  It tells me all I need to know about Andrew's character. I would suggest he adhere to the same decorum as was requested by Senator Rand Paul when his son was arrested recently in Charlotte, NC.  It is a simple courtesy that should be afforded any politician, regardless of situation of party affiliation. 

            Ditto for spouses.  I don't remember the lefties going after Cindy McCain in 199 when she admitted stealing Percocet and Vicodin, Schedule 2 drugs, from the American Voluntary Medical Team – each theft carrying a penalty of one year and a monetary fine.  She ultimately did not face prosecution and was allowed to enter a pretrial diversion program and escaped with no blemish to her record.  This didn't make Senator McCain any less effective or re-electable.

             

      • roccoprahn says:

        Really?

        What do you base that on?

        For the record, both are very good with National Security. Both do the homework neccessary to come to work and argue for good legislation, oversight, and for the safety of the nation.

        Help me out here………….tell me ANY circumstance where Udall has in any way compromised National Security.

        Didn't think so, you quack.

         

      • The only time Sen. Feinstein is "more responsible" than Sen. Udall on intelligence matters, IMHO, is when the state of Israel has a complaint. (And by "more responsible" I mean more willing to push the agency to get a result she wants.) She has been woefully absent in the NSA wiretapping and data collection overreach.

        In contrast, Sen. Udall has been a consistent steady hand in military and intelligence matters, both in the House and now in the Senate. He has consistently shown willingness to challenge weak assumptions, question practices that infringe on the rights of the People, and support the agencies and their employees to the fullest when the cause is right and the need is there.

        If we were electing a Colorado Senator this year based solely on their ability to guide this county on intelligence and military matters, none of the Republicans would make it out of the single digits vs. Mark Udall.

      • BlueCat says:

        Like you;re fooling anyone, Modster.

      • Ralphie says:

        "Responsible" meaning what?  Whatever is politically expedient to you at the moment whether it's true or not?  Udall has been way out ahead of your party's defense-establishment robots on this issue.  Suck it up and admit that he's right and you're wrong.

  5. doremi says:

    I do believe there are strict rules (maybe even laws) about what members of the intelligence committee can share outside their closed confines. 

    • DavieDavie says:

      Yes.  Only POTUS has the ability to automatically declassify material.  Everyone else is subject to laws governing the handling of classified materials and their desire to retain their clearance.

      • DavieDavie says:

        True story — LBJ decided to publicly reveal the existence of the darkest classified airplane of the time, the RS-71 Blackbird back in 1964. 

        But when he did, he mixed up the designation, calling it the SR-71.  Thus, not only did he instantly declassify the most amazing technical achievement of the time, he renamed it as well despite thousands of pages of classified documentation saying otherwise :-)

        • notaskinnycooknotaskinnycook says:

          Curious. I thought you'd written that wrong before I finished reading your post, Davie. Have you ever been up close and personal with one of those beasts? They're something else. Fun fact: When they take off, they leak jet fuel like a strainer. Only after the metal heats up do the joints expand and seal the fuel tanks.  

          • DavieDavie says:

            No, never got the chance to get up close and personal with one of those — I need to go to either the Smithsonian or take a trip up to Wright-Patterson to the Air Force Museum for that.

            The reason for the leakage is because there weren't any seals that could withstand the operating temperatures at Mach 3.2.  So the first thing the SR-71 crew does after take off is meet up with a tanker to take on much of their fuel.

            I did get to approach an F-117 prior to the opening of DIA 20 years ago.  However, the Air Force guard with an M-16 discouraged me from trying to touch the radar absorbant skin ;-)

      • gaf says:

        Well, POTUS and Dick Cheney back in the day.

    • Andrew Carnegie says:

      None of which apply on the floor of the senate as they are protected by the Constitution.

      • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

        I believe they're protected from libel on the floor of the Senate, but not treason. Spilling national secrets is treason.

        • ct says:

          It seems that there are no clear answers, so members of the Intelligence COmmittees proceed caustiously so as not to loset heir priveleges.  It is the Executive Branch that controls access to priveleged agency information. IOW, a senator can still lose their special (above Top Secret) security clearance, which is not the same as being prosecuted. There is no requirement that Senators be given access to above Top Secret secure information, but there is quite a bit of tussling over what prper oversight means.  Thus spilling the beans on the Senate floor, although protected by the US Constituion does mean you continue to have access to secure info. << my understanding. And unlike A Cowardly troll (aka 'turd') I verify these things before posting, I do not just spit them up randomly like regurgitated nonsense.   

           

        • DavieDavie says:

          Actually David, AC is probably more correct than you are in this case.  The courts have held that the Speech or Debate Clause does provide protections, even when it involves classified materials.  Case in point — Sen. Mike Gravel's reading the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record. 

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravel_v._United_States

          But it has it's limits, and with today's make up of the SCOTUS, Mark Udall is probably wise to not try to push his luck.

          • ct says:

            My understanding is it has a lot to do with being able to continue to get briefings above the clearance level each Member is automatically granted.  That above Top Secret clearance is a privelege, one that Members and the Exec spar over but that is not settled.  << but that's not necessarily well-informed, just my understanding.  (Its about loss of access to info more than prosecution).  

             

            • DavieDavie says:

              That's basically correct.  Gravel wasn't on the Intelligence Committee so he didn't really have to worry about getting cut off from security briefings.  Udall certainly does, but he could also be taken to court as Gravel was. 

  6. BlueCat says:

    Lots of anxiety in rightie Trollsville.  Lots of indies will admire Udall taking this stand. As Udall grows in stature in the public view (And he will. His team will make sure of that), their clown car red CD extremist and none too bright candidate will shrink right before their eyes.  And while what Phoenix says about incumbents with approval below a certain level being in trouble is true in general, when it is true it's reflected in polls.

    I predict that being about even in the polls, as is the case now will be Udall's polling low point. As we get closer and the ads get going Udall's numbers will rise. 

  7. RavenDawg says:

    Rule #1 of bureaucractic power plays:

    Never overtly infringe on the turf of the elected official charged with your oversight.

    If true, these allegations show a level of hubris by NSA that has calcified to arrogance, and suggest that the information removed showed them with their hands in the cookie jar all the way to the elbows.

    I don't care who does it, they need to be busted back to enlisted rank and there needs to be an in-depth national dialog to re-define the mission of this agency and their rules of engagement.  They are out of control–set loose by GW Bush and wilfully enabled by Obama. 

    Udall is not what I would call a political risk-taker but he has consistently stood up and spoken out on this issue, even in opposition to Pres of his own party.  And the great right-wing protectors of our individual freedoms have been notably silent–appears the only civil liberties that matter to them are those of unborn and gun owners. 

    • RavenDawg says:

      And one more thing–

      The most effective governance for the public good would be for leadership from both parties on the committe to issue a joint statement and work together on reforms.  But I guess Repubs just aren't into that.

  8. BlueCat says:

    Righties just hate it when something like standing up to the President repeatedly ruins their he's just an Obama puppet narrative. Probably why our most dickish troll is trying to pivot one more time to a Udall being a lousy father narrative. That angle hasn't gotten any traction so far but hope springs eternal. Truth is, they feel this one slipping farther away.

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