Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has asked Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer to investigate how Intelligence Committee staff gained access to a report at the heart of the standoff between the CIA and the Senate. The Nevada Democrat disclosed in a letter to CIA Director John O. Brennan that he was asking Gainer "to initiate a forensic examination of the computers and computer network assigned for exclusive [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence] use."
The staff of the the Intelligence Committee was investigating the CIA's use of interrogation techniques and detainee policies during the George W. Bush administration.
Reid is highly skeptical of the CIA's contention that Senate staff improperly accessed a document known as the Panetta report that seems to be at the center of the war over improper access and removal of information.
Reid went so far as to call the idea "an allegation that appears on its face to be patently absurd."
"To ensure its independence, I ask that you take whatever steps necessary to ensure that CIA personnel refrain from further interaction relating to this issue with Senate staff other than the Sergeant-at-Arms staff conducting the examination while the examination is underway," Reid wrote in the letter dated Wednesday.
The Associated Press first obtained the Brennan letter, but in a separate Wednesday letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., Reid informed the Justice Department of his instructions to Gainer, while also expressing concern about broader actions on the part of the CIA, reviewing some of the details Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., set out in her Capitol-shaking floor speech on the subject. "In my capacity as the leader of the U.S. Senate, the CIA's actions cause me great concern," Reid wrote to Holder. "The CIA has not only interfered with the lawful congressional oversight of its activities, but has also seemingly attempted to intimidate its overseers by subjecting them to criminal investigation. The developments strike at the heart of the constitutional separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches. Left unchallenged, they call into question Congress's ability to carry out its core constitutional duties and risk the possibility of an unaccountable intelligence community run amok."