Tags: Exclusive Interviews | John McCain | NSA/Surveillance | Michael Hayden | Dianne Feinstein | CIA | ugly

Gen. Hayden to Newsmax: 'No One Wins' in Intelligence Feud

By Todd Beamon   |   Tuesday, 11 Mar 2014 06:46 PM

The prolonged feud between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee "definitely turned ugly" on Tuesday with charges by Sen. Dianne Feinstein that the agency had hacked into the panel's database and removed documents regarding a controversial CIA interrogation program, retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden told Newsmax.

"It's really harmful to full and legitimate oversight," Hayden, who has directed both the CIA and the National Security Agency, said in an exclusive interview. "The relationship is frequently contentious, but it has now turned genuinely venomous.

"That just doesn't serve oversight or the agency, and it certainly doesn't serve America," he said Tuesday. "We're going to have to step back from this, and calmer heads are going to have to prevail."

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Feinstein, the California Democrat who chairs the Senate panel, charged that the CIA might have violated the separation of powers between the branches of government with the 2010 breach. The agency removed hundreds of pages of documents from the committee's secured computers, she said.

The CIA provided the documents in the committee's investigation of the agency's handling of the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects. The program began in 2002, became public in 2006 — but no longer exists.

Feinstein said the agency searched computer drives used by Intelligence Committee staffers who were preparing a detailed report on the controversial interrogation program.

"On two occasions, CIA personnel electronically removed committee access to CIA documents after providing them to the committee," Feinstein said on the Senate floor. "This was done without the knowledge or approval of committee members and staff and in violation of our written agreements."

Feinstein denounced the CIA's actions, charging that they appeared to be an effort to intimidate lawmakers from holding the agency accountable.

"I have grave concerns that the CIA's search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution," Feinstein said.

Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican, also denounced the CIA's actions and the agency's director, John Brennan.

"It is very disturbing, and we need a thorough and complete investigation, and I'm trying to figure out who would be doing it, because there's allegations of bias on both sides, so we may need some kind of independent investigation," McCain told NBC News.

Brennan denied the allegations.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," he said on Tuesday. "We wouldn't do that."

That Brennan responded so sharply is the reason caution should take hold at this point, Hayden told Newsmax.

"Director Brennan has pushed back, saying that all the real facts in the case have not been made public yet. I'm going to reserve judgment to see what exactly went on, in what sequence — and for what purpose, under what authorities.

"It's hard to imagine this coming at a worse time," Hayden said, acknowledging that Feinstein has long been "a heroic defender" of the intelligence community. "It's doubly unfortunate now that we have this other matter, muddying the waters.

"It's going to get in the way of effective communications between the committee and the agencies. No one wins here.

"This just prolongs the strife," Hayden said. "This is just bad all around, and we need to get beyond this as quickly as possible."

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