CIA Lawyer at Center of Computer Snooping Clash
WASHINGTON March 12, 2014
The top CIA lawyer accused by the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee of trying to intimidate the panel over its investigation into secret prisons and brutal interrogations of terrorism suspects was himself involved in the controversial programs, cited more than 1,600 times in the Senate's unpublished investigative report, according to the panel's chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
On Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney confirmed that CIA acting general counsel Robert Eatinger also was one of two senior spy agency officials who informed administration lawyers earlier this year about plans to file a criminal complaint against Senate Intelligence Committee staffers. The CIA suspects the aides improperly gained access to a classified CIA report on the George W. Bush-era secret prisons and harsh interrogations overseen by the spy agency. Carney said CIA Director John Brennan also notified the White House about the decision.
Until Feinstein's extraordinary Senate speech Tuesday in which she said the CIA was possibly trying to intimidate committee staff, Eatinger was little known outside a small cadre of highly specialized national security lawyers. He has maintained a low profile in a legal career that has spanned two decades at the CIA and in the Navy. But Feinstein's remarkable accusations instantly made Eatinger famous — or infamous — over a simmering constitutional dispute that threatens to engulf two branches of the government.
Eatinger's criminal complaint to Justice boomeranged when Feinstein rose in the Senate chamber Tuesday to lambaste the CIA for what she described as quietly removing documents the agency had earlier provided to Senate investigators, monitoring committee staffers and undermining congressional authority. Feinstein lashed out at Eatinger personally — though not by name — in accusing the CIA lawyer of "a potential effort to intimidate" committee aides and of providing "inaccurate information" to the Justice Department.
Eatinger did not return telephone calls from The Associated Press seeking comment Tuesday, and the CIA did not respond to questions about the counsel. CIA Director John Brennan said the agency was "not in any way, shape or form trying to thwart this report's progression, release." But Brennan made no comments about Feinstein's characterization of the agency's top lawyer.