Senator Dianne Feinstein’s blistering attack on the CIA’s conduct in searching the computers used by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was deemed a remarkable salvo.
The search was engendered by the Committee’s official request for a final version of the named “Internal Panetta Review.” The Review had been created for internal use by the CIA as a record of assessing what documents should be turned over to the Committee in connection with its investigation of the torture program. Once the CIA got wind that their precious internal documentation was finding its way into the hands of the committee, the hackers got itchy.
Senator Feinstein herself charged the CIA with violating the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and Executive Order 12333. This raises the first problem. The CFAA is a legislative creation that exempts authorised law enforcement and intelligence activities. Legal commentary from former Chief Counsel for the House Permanent Select Committee for Intelligence, Chris Donesa at Lawfare puts the question as whether “the CIA’s investigation and search was in fact ‘lawfully authorised’ or merely a pretext for deliberate efforts to obstruct or interfere with the SSCI investigation.”