When Sen. Mark Udall alleged interference by the Central Intelligence Agency into Intelligence Committee affairs Tuesday, it wasn't immediately clear what he meant.
The Colorado Democrat appeared to choose his words carefully in a letter to President Barack Obama announcing opposition to moving on the nomination of Caroline Krass to be CIA general counsel without "significant progress" in responding to his inquires about CIA detention and torture programs. Udall referred to "unprecedented action against the Committee" in the letter sent Tuesday, but it wasn't immediately clear to what he might be referring.
A bombshell report published late Tuesday gives a clue. McClatchy reported the Justice Department may have been asked by the CIA inspector general to investigate CIA monitoring of computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee while preparing a report on torture. McClatchy cited sources and documents indicating that the CIA may have improperly monitored computers used by Senate staff working out of Langley, Va., to investigate the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" during the George W. Bush administration.That work led to the production of a 6,300-page Intelligence Committee report on detention and interrogation that remains classified.
"As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the Committee in relation to the internal CIA review, and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee's oversight responsibilities and for our democracy," Udall wrote. "It is essential that the Committee be able to do its oversight work — consistent with our constitutional principle of the separation of powers — without the CIA posing impediments or obstacles as it is today."
The McClatchy report suggests that Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., may have been referring to the same CIA conduct when he questioned Director John Brennan at an open hearing in late January about the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Wyden and Udall have been among the foremost Democratic critics of the intelligence community.
The full letter from Udall to Obama about the CIA conduct and the Krass nomination is posted here.