Was the White House Involved in the Decision to Unapologize to Dianne Feinstein?

A must-read Jason Leopold piece on the fight between the Senate Intelligence Committee and CIA over the torture report reveals that John Brennan apologized about hacking the SSCI website — before he unapologized .

John Brennan was about to say he was sorry.

On July 28, 2014, the CIA director wrote a letter to senators Dianne Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss — the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee (SSCI) and the panel’s ranking Republican, respectively. In it, he admitted that the CIA’s penetration of the computer network used by committee staffers reviewing the agency’s torture program — a breach for which Feinstein and Chambliss had long demanded accountability — was improper and violated agreements the Intelligence Committee had made with the CIA.

[snip]

“I recently received a briefing on the [OIG’s] findings, and want to inform you that the investigation found support for your concern that CIA staff had improperly accessed the [Intelligence Committee] shared drive on the RDINet [an acronym for rendition, detention, and interrogation] when conducting a limited search for CIA privileged documents,” Brennan wrote. “In particular, the [OIG] judged that Agency officers’ access to the… shared drive was inconsistent with the common understanding reached in 2009 between the Committee and the Agency regarding access to RDINet. Consequently, I apologize for the actions of CIA officers…. I am committed to correcting the shortcomings that this report has revealed.”

But Brennan didn’t sign or send the apology letter.

Instead, four days later, he sent Feinstein and Chambliss a different letter — one without an apology or admission that the search of their computer network was improper.

Leopold includes the letter as an image in his story (and also at page 299 in the SCRIBD embed). The letter he did send appears at page 11 of the embed.

In addition to the dramatically different content, the later letter does not include — as the earlier one did — notice that carbon copies of the letter were sent to DNI James Clapper, White House Counsel Neil Eggleston, and CIA’s Inspector General David Buckley.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 1.55.19 PM

You can see the earlier letter (see page 298) was sent by some emoticon-wielding (presumed) Assistant who explained — at 4:32 that same day — “Sending anyway, Just in case you need it soft copy for any reason. :)”

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 2.29.35 PM

 

It’s as if by that point the CIA had already decided to pursue a different option (which, if we can believe the CIA’s currently operative story to Leopold, was to apologize to Senator Feinstein in person rather than memorialize such an apology in writing).

But I wonder … given that they were going to include Eggleston on the original but saw no need to include him (and Clapper and Buckley) on the finalized letter … was the White House in the loop in the decision to unapologize?

As Leopold reminds in his story, Brennan looped Chief of Staff Denis McDonough in before the January searches of SSCI’s network, implicating (though insulated by two degrees of separation, if we believe the CIA’s story) the White House in the decision to spy on SSCI. Was the White House included in the decision on whether to apologize to Dianne Feinstein?

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

5 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    I’m wondering if Brennan is truthful at any time, with anyone, including his own family. Lying to the WH (so that they do it his way and not the correct/sane/moral way) would seem to be right down his sewer alley.

  2. wallace says:

    What a crock of political theater bullshit. The thing is though, NO ONE will ever take down a CIA director..ever. Even Senator Pike, who ran one of the most comprehensive review of CIA funding hearings learned the hard way. The executive will ALWAYS cover the CIA’s ass, as his ass is on the line by the very P’sTB who put him in office, who in turn use the CIA for corporate benefit. Even when they get caught with their pants down, like Senator Churches hearings did, the CIA will eventually raise their middle finger, as did the NSA and FISC and run amok as they wish to. All the Congress can really do is create theater. As far as funding..hahahahaha.. I doubt you’ll find one single Congress scumbag who knows where it comes from. Especially newer members. They don’t have a fucking clue.

    • Stephen says:

      The thing is though, NO ONE will ever take down a CIA director..ever. Even Senator Pike, who ran one of the most comprehensive review of CIA funding hearings learned the hard way. The executive will ALWAYS cover the CIA’s ass, as his ass is on the line by the very P’sTB who put him in office, who in turn use the CIA for corporate benefit.

      Then the solution (for Congress) is obvious: impeachment of an errant CIA director. To do nothing at all–which I agree is basically what happens at the moment–would be fatal to congressional ability to conduct meaningful oversight of the executive and merely encourage that executive and its minions to thumb their noses at Congress and its committees.
      .
      As the saying goes, those who don’t use it lose it.

      • galljdaj says:

        I have no idea whether “impeachment” is provided for in the Constitution for ‘department appointments once ratified’, But your proposal is worthy and proper under the conditions! Also an add on… , Congress should also send the war criminals to the World Court in that the current Administration has failed It’s Oath of Office. And Impeachment would not bring the proper result of Accountability!

  3. GKJames says:

    Junior high stuff, except that Brennan really is a thug. But it begins and ends with Obama, by now the most prolific assassin in history, who likes him. Peas in a pod.

Comments are closed.