The top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee came to the strong defense of CIA Director John Brennan on Friday, saying the spy chief did not order nor know in advance of other agency employees’ spying on the Senate.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said an inspector general’s report, which has yet to be publicly released, says Brennan didn’t direct or know in advance about the spying, which took place during the Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the CIA’s detention and interrogation practices after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
“Brennan came to us — every time there was an issue that popped up, he immediately reported to us,” Chambliss told the Washington Examiner on Friday, referring to how Brennan dealt with the Intelligence Committee during the entire probe.
“The [inspector general’s] report says specifically, he didn’t direct it, he didn’t know about it in advance, but when he found out about it, he came to the committee, so I think Brennan has done what he’s supposed to do,” Chambliss continued.
Brennan apologized to Chambliss and Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Thursday after the CIA publicly acknowledged that an inspector general report found that some employees acted in a manner “inconsistent” with the understanding the Senate and the agency set up regarding computers Senate aides used to access classified documents during its investigation into the agency’s interrogation practices.
The CIA is forming an “accountability board” to weigh potential disciplinary action for those involved in the Senate snooping.
If the accountability report finds evidence that Brennan is culpable in some way, Chambliss said he could change his mind about Brennan’s ability to continue to lead the CIA.
“I just don’t see that right now,” he said.
Feinstein has declined to comment on whether Brennan should resign. His apology wasn't enough for two Democratic senators who sit on the Intelligence panel. Sens. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., called for his resignation Thursday after being briefed on the inspector general’s findings.
“The CIA unconstitutionally spied on Congress by hacking into the Senate Intelligence Committee computers,” Udall said, calling the spying “grave misconduct” and an illegal violation of the Constitution’s requirement on the separation of powers.
The apology and admission of some level of guilt stands is a far cry from Brennan’s angry denials early this year after Feinstein openly and angrily accused the CIA of spying on the Senate.
At the time Brennan said “nothing could be further from the truth” and called the allegation “beyond the scope of reason.”