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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The CIA and the Separation of Powers

Reuters reports:
A bitter dispute between the CIA and the U.S. Senate committee that oversees it burst into the open on Tuesday when the committee chairwoman accused the agency of spying on Congress and possibly breaking the law.
Veteran Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said the CIA had searched computers used by committee staffers examining CIA documents when researching the agency's counter-terrorism operations and its use of harsh interrogation methods such as simulated drowning or "waterboarding."
Speaking on the Senate floor, Feinstein condemned how the CIA had handled the committee's investigation into the agency's detention and interrogation program started under President George W. Bush after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Human rights advocates condemn the interrogation practices as torture.

"I have grave concerns that the CIA's search (of committee computers) may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the Constitution," said Feinstein, who is normally a strong ally of U.S. intelligence agencies
The CIA has crossed this line before.  Back in 2005, Lee Edwards wrote at NRO:
In the fall of 1964, the White House turned to the CIA to get advance inside information about the Goldwater campaign, although the senator could hardly be described as a "domestic enemy" (the only valid excuse for agency action). E. Howard Hunt, later convicted for his part in the Watergate break-in, told a congressional committee a decade later that he was ordered to spy on Goldwater's headquarters. He said that President Johnson "had ordered this activity" and that White House aide Chester L. Cooper "would be the recipient of the information."
CIA Director William Colby admitted that Cooper prepared campaign material for Johnson and obtained advance texts of Goldwater speeches through a "woman secretary," clearly suggesting that the agency planted someone inside the Goldwater campaign organization.