Did Obama know of CIA snooping on Senate probe?

posted at 2:41 pm on March 5, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

If you missed the morning post on this topic, the short version is that the CIA’s Inspector General has called for a Justice Department probe into alleged CIA snooping on a Senate Intelligence Committee (SSCI) investigation into Bush-era interrogation and detention activities by the agency. Now a letter written by a Democratic Senator to Barack Obama this week suggests that the President knew of the snooping before it went public today (via Glenn Reynolds):

A leading US senator has said that President Obama knew of an “unprecedented action” taken by the CIA against the Senate intelligence committee, which has apparently prompted an inspector general’s inquiry at Langley.

The subtle reference in a Tuesday letter from Senator Mark Udall to Obama, seeking to enlist the president’s help in declassifying a 6,300-page inquiry by the committee into torture carried out by CIA interrogators after 9/11, threatens to plunge the White House into a battle between the agency and its Senate overseers. …

Udall, a Colorado Democrat and one of the CIA’s leading pursuers on the committee, appeared to reference that surreptitious spying on Congress, which Udall said undermined democratic principles.

“As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the committee in relation to the internal CIA review and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee’s oversight powers and for our democracy,” Udall wrote to Obama on Tuesday.

Glenn says “this seems big”:

“Independent observers were unaware of a precedent for the CIA spying on the congressional committees established in the 1970s to check abuses by the intelligence agencies.” That’s because such spying is illegal. I wonder who else, inside and outside the various branches of government, was being similarly spied upon. And what was done with the information learned. (Bumped, because this seems big.)

And of course, the Watergate question applies here, too — “What did the President know, and when did he know it?” Udall’s letter assumes Obama already knew of this snooping on the SSCI; the meaning of “as you are aware” is pretty clear in this regard. Udall wrote the letter with some specific knowledge of Obama’s awareness of the situation as a way to demand greater declassification of the committee’s report. Udall threatens to place a hold on an Obama appointee to CIA until that happens, in large part because of the “unprecedented action” and the presumed attempts through it to obfuscate the findings of the SSCI probe.

The question, though, is twofold. Even assuming Obama knew about it, when he learned of it matters a great deal. The IG, after all, knew enough to start its own probe quite a while ago, only deciding this week that the Department of Justice needed to open a criminal investigation. The White House may well have been apprised of that IG probe, and it’s almost certain that SSCI members would have been, too. If that’s the case, then the White House would have kept quiet until after the IG report was finished and recommendations issued, so this reference to Obama knowing about it wouldn’t mean much.  Or, Udall could be insinuating that Obama knew about this well before it became the focus of action by the IG — but it’s difficult to believe that a Democratic Senator would have committed that to writing, if that was the case. Either way, it’s impossible to tell from the context of this letter.

The answer on this is that it could be big, but this doesn’t tell us much more than we knew before. If it’s that big, though, the investigation needs to go outside of Eric Holder’s Justice Department.


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Holder will appoint another Obama bundler

cmsinaz on March 5, 2014 at 2:46 PM

He’ll have to read it in the newspapers. That’s the usual MO.

Deano1952 on March 5, 2014 at 2:47 PM

Another scandal the GOP won’t get to the bottom of?

Meople on March 5, 2014 at 2:49 PM

Okay, if this grows to Presidential scandal levels, could we all agree now that it isn’t called something that ends in -gate?

I’m partial to snoopghazi.

Happy Nomad on March 5, 2014 at 2:50 PM

…JugEars gets to blame Boooooosh again!

KOOLAID2 on March 5, 2014 at 2:51 PM

He’ll have to read it in the newspapers. That’s the usual MO.

Deano1952 on March 5, 2014 at 2:47 PM

And nobody is madder than Obama after that happens.

Happy Nomad on March 5, 2014 at 2:51 PM

The Dept of Injustice to the rescue! Findings: George Bush personally took charge of all torture sessions in and out of gummint.

vnvet on March 5, 2014 at 2:52 PM

“Too busy golfing” or “on vacay” excuses again?

viking01 on March 5, 2014 at 2:52 PM

Obama, the great theorizer, is above the day to day operations of the government. Obama is outside of the day to day operations of federal agencies.

Obama is fighting these out of control federal agencies on our behalf, fighting for the little guy, the poor, the oppressed. Obama didn’t know any of this because these out of control federal agencies keep that information away from Obama. Just like the IRS working with democrats in congress to target enemies of the state, enemies of Obama.

Obama didn’t know until he read his daily news briefing. It’s not his fault. Now that he does know about it, he will take steps to see that it never happens again.

I raise my shot glass of victory gin in praise of our dear leader. I love Obama.

Joseph OHenry on March 5, 2014 at 2:53 PM

Special prosecutor shady Warren Buffett grinned “I can find no evidence of wrongdoing.”

viking01 on March 5, 2014 at 2:55 PM

Let me see if I get this…

A Democrat Senator is upset that the CIA, part of the Executive Branch, has been snooping on members of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee staff as the SSIC is investigating Bush-era actions by the Executive Branch? Defining the action of the CIA to impede the SSIC investigation as ‘unprecedented action’…

…But when it comes to a Democrat Senator or Representative investigating abuses of power undertaken by the current Executive Branch (IRS and Fast & Furious), it’s hand’s off, nothing there but a GOP ‘witch-hunt’, and doing everything possible to impede, disrupt, and deflect those investigations.

Exec Branch ‘Abuses of power’ in the Bush era = investigate away.

Exec Branch Abuses of power in the Obama era = block the investigations and demagogue the GOP.

They’re taking hypocrisy to new levels….

Athos on March 5, 2014 at 3:01 PM

Jug Ears could kill kittens on live TV and his Zombie followers would be ok with it.

bsinc1962 on March 5, 2014 at 3:02 PM

I trust the Fed with my health care data/progressive Obamabot logic.

rob verdi on March 5, 2014 at 3:02 PM

Did Obama know of CIA snooping on Senate probe?

Is the pope a catholic? …Wait what?

tominsd on March 5, 2014 at 3:03 PM

I’m partial to snoopghazi.

Happy Nomad on March 5, 2014 at 2:50 PM

That’s a winner!

rhombus on March 5, 2014 at 3:05 PM

Jug Ears could kill kittens on live TV and his Zombie followers would be ok with it.

bsinc1962 on March 5, 2014 at 3:02 PM

Just a cat’s right to choose. It’s in the Constitution.

rhombus on March 5, 2014 at 3:08 PM

And nobody is madder than Obama after that happens.

Happy Nomad on March 5, 2014 at 2:51 PM

He’ll put his best team on it.

ConstantineXI on March 5, 2014 at 3:15 PM

Just a cat’s right to choose. It’s in the Constitution.

rhombus on March 5, 2014 at 3:08 PM

Burdened with a kitten.

Just ask Obama and holocaust enabler Harry Blackmun.

viking01 on March 5, 2014 at 3:17 PM

Holder will appoint another Obama bundler

cmsinaz on March 5, 2014 at 2:46 PM

cmsinaz: Yups,..with Zero..zip…notta any experience:0

canopfor on March 5, 2014 at 3:18 PM

Mr. Obama just now reacted to this report first by saying there had not been even a
“smidgen” of spying and then by having his staff brush the reporters away as he exclaimed, “Fore!”.

Mason on March 5, 2014 at 3:18 PM

Now a letter written by a Democratic Senator to Barack Obama this week suggests that the President knew of the snooping before it went public today (via Glenn Reynolds):
============================

Maybe’s someone in the NSA, was keeping tabs on Hopey,
watching Changey snoop around the Senate!

canopfor on March 5, 2014 at 3:23 PM

Did Obama know of CIA snooping on Senate probe?

From this day forward all headlines regarding this supreme loser, or any of his admin’s illegal activities should no longer be posted in question form.

StubbornGreenBurros on March 5, 2014 at 3:26 PM

Obama makes Nixon look like a saint.

sadatoni on March 5, 2014 at 3:27 PM

There seems to be a Pattern, by this rogue WH,
on Spying on there percieved “Political Enemys”!!

canopfor on March 5, 2014 at 3:36 PM

Bring in the Drones!

Sven on March 5, 2014 at 3:38 PM

Mark Udall better watch his back…

d1carter on March 5, 2014 at 3:43 PM

I’ll accept SCOTUS rulings to decide if I disagree or not.

rogerb on March 5, 2014 at 3:44 PM

If it’s that big, though, the investigation needs to go outside of Eric Holder’s Justice Department.

How racist can you get? Eric Holder is perfectly qualified to investigate himself and his boss. Period.

/

Key West Reader on March 5, 2014 at 3:47 PM

If it’s that bigany question of law, though, the investigation needs to go outside of Eric Holder’s Justice Department.

FIFY

SomeCallMeJohn on March 5, 2014 at 3:57 PM

Burdened with a kitten.

Just ask Obama and holocaust enabler Harry Blackmun.

viking01 on March 5, 2014 at 3:17 PM

Never saw a mother cat that was unhappy to be “punished” with kittens. Indeed, they are better parents than most humans.

Still, I always have my cats spayed or neutered, there are far too many unwanted cats out there that end up leading short and hard lives.

ConstantineXI on March 5, 2014 at 4:01 PM

“As you are aware

OR

‘I know you read the newspaper every day. And I ASSUME that you read the article about the CIA IG’s report.’

GarandFan on March 5, 2014 at 4:14 PM

Jug Ears could kill kittens on live TV and his Zombie followers would be ok with it.

Reminds of a quote from ex Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards Before election day, Edwards joked with reporters: “The only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy”.

With Preezy Mile Wide Inch Deep I’m thinkin’ the dead girl wouldn’t matter and the live boy would improve his standing with some of his constituency

HatfieldMcCoy on March 5, 2014 at 5:09 PM

Down the Eric Holder memory hole never to be seen again. We ceased being a nation of laws a few years ago.

jnelchef on March 5, 2014 at 5:32 PM

At this point, what difference does it make?

We’ve got a Teflon Prez.

Oxymoron on March 5, 2014 at 6:40 PM

Just like the American people, I didn’t learn of this until I read about it in the media Most uninformed President Eva!

PSD_Steve on March 5, 2014 at 7:43 PM

IG passed the buck on this one. Noticed that there is no determination of a crime. If there is no crime, then this a counter-intelligence matter. The last time the Senate Intelligence committee played this game,(this group of democrat staffers has a very bad reputation on the hill.) the committee was shut down for over a year. The then chairman suddenly took a year off for “health Reasons”. Coming after Snowden, I cannot believe that the Senate Democrats would be so reckless, or so stupid.

flackcatcher on March 6, 2014 at 3:40 AM

An awful lot of “unprecedented”s in this story. Seems like a “Princess Bride” moment, i.e. “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”

Given that during the Bush era sensitive intelligence programs were being exposed by the NYSlimes on a frequent basis, usually with the presumed abettance of Democrat staffers, the fact that the Agency chose to monitor their activities, shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise. I seriously doubt that this was the first occasion on which such a thing occurred.

The monitoring may well have been in violation of the agreement between the SSCI and the Agency, but then again the copying and removal of documents by SSCI staff was also.

Although this seems to be generating a great deal of weeping and gnashing of teeth, I suspect the real plot is to provide a few news cycles of distraction from the mounting tide of disclosures of administration incompetence and corruption. In the end this rates another movie quote reference i.e. Claude Rains in “Casablanca”

djaces on March 6, 2014 at 1:00 PM