Feinstein Puts Obama’s White House in Center of CIA/Senate Spying Scandal

In her Senate floor speech Tuesday castigating the CIA for illegally spying on Senate committee staffers, and violating the Constitutional separation of powers, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, put much of the blame squarely on the White House. In the course of her speech, she stated:

“In May of 2010, the committee staff noticed that [certain] documents that had been provided for the committees review were no longer accessible. Staff approached the CIA personnel at the offsite location, who initially denied that documents had been removed. CIA personnel then blamed information technology personnel, who were almost all contractors, for removing the documents themselves without direction or authority. AND THEN THE CIA STATED THAT THE REMOVAL OF THE DOCUMENTS WAS ORDERED BY THE WHITE HOUSE. When the committee approached the White House, the White House denied giving the CIA any such order.” (emphasis added)

While this was ignored or buried in most of the news coverage of Feinstein’s blockbuster speech, it was featured by the liberal Washington Post columnist, Dana Milbank, whose column was entitled “A true obama scandal,” but seems to have had it’s title changed to “Allegations of CIA spying on the Senate deserve investigation.”

Milbank, who usually ridicules Republican charges against Obama, wrote that the most damaging allegation of wrongdoing by Obama’s administration hasn’t come from his GOP foes, but from a friend, Dianne Feinstein. He reports Feinstein saying that “the removal of the documents was ordered by the White House,” and continues:

“Feinstein is owed much more than an apology. The White House needs to cough up documents it is withholding from the public, and it should remove the CIA officials involved and subject them to an independent prosecutor’s investigation….”

Milbank singles out, in particular, the CIA’s acting general counsel, Robert Ettinger, who is the one who filed the “crimes report” with the Department of Justice, accusing Senate staff of stealing classified documents. (This is separate from the CIA Inspector General referral to the DOJ reported last week.) Feinstein pointed out that this individual was mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in the Senate report on the CIA’s interrogation and torture program.

A New York Times editorial puts responsibility on Obama. “It was outrageous enough when two successive presidents papered over the Central Intelligence Agency’s history of illegal detention, rendition, torture and fruitless harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects,” the editorial begins, and then notes that Feinstein has shown that the CIA may have committed crimes to prevent the exposure of its interrogation program. After reviewing Feinstein’s speech, and her call for Obama to make the Senate report public, it concludes:

“The lingering fog about the C.I.A. detentions is a result of Mr. Obama’s decision when he took office to conduct no investigation of them. We can only hope he knows that when he has lost Dianne Feinstein, he has no choice but to act in favor of disclosure and accountability.”

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