Brennan: We wouldn’t do a “tremendous” amount of spying, hacking, and monitoring of Congress

posted at 12:41 pm on March 12, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Credit Major Garrett for catching the odd qualifiers on John Brennan’s response to accusations of snooping on a Senate investigation. Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein attacked the CIA for monitoring and snooping on staffers probing whether the agency misled the Bush administration on interrogations and black-site operations, blowing a brewing war between Langley and Capitol Hill into full view. Appearing at the Council on Foreign Relations, the CIA director responded by claiming that the facts would dispute that there had been monitoring, snooping, or hacking … in any huge amount, anyway:

[NBC News reporter ANDREA] MITCHELL: She says that there are potentially illegal and unconstitutional breaches by the CIA.

BRENNAN: Well, there are appropriate authorities right now both inside of CIA, as well as outside of CIA…

MITCHELL: The Justice Department.

BRENNAN: … are looking at what CIA officers, as well as SSCI staff members did. And I defer to them to determine whether or not there was any violation of law or principle, and I referred the matter myself to the CIA inspector general to make sure that he was able to look honestly and objectively at what CIA did there.

And, you know, when the facts come out on this, I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong.

Garrett seized on Brennan’s framing of the denial:

CIA Director John Brennan denied credible allegations of spying on Congress—a federal crime—leveled by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein with a classic Washington evasion.

“We wouldn’t do that,” Brennan said during an appearance before the Council on Foreign Relations. “That’s just beyond the scope of reason in terms of what we would do.”

As might be said in a deposition, the witness was unresponsive. Brennan wasn’t under oath, and this isn’t a full-scale legal inquiry, at least not yet. As any cop or lawyer knows, when someone says they wouldn’t do something, that doesn’t prove they didn’t. And saying something is unreasonable doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

Brennan also added this: “When the facts come out on this, I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong.”

Note the modifier “tremendous.” What constitutes tremendous in terms of spying or monitoring or hacking? That’s an eye-of-the-beholder dodge of the central question at hand: Did the CIA intentionally invade the work computers of Senate Intelligence Committee staffers and remove documents relevant to the panel’s ongoing oversight investigation?

Put another way: Did the Obama administration, through zealous and possibly criminal tactics, seek to interfere with the oversight work of a bipartisan oversight committee chaired by Feinstein, a loyal California Democrat? Is Feinstein alone? Hardly. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid backs her “unequivocally.” So do rank-and-file Democrats.

We are talking crimes and prerogatives here, people. And it’s Democrats, not Republicans, who allege that laws may have been violated and prerogatives bulldozed.

Eli Lake also picked up on that nuance, but sees a different problem for Brennan. His statement set an expectation — however qualified it might be — that Feinstein will be proven wrong. If not, Brennan has basically dared Obama to do something that Obama has never done, which is to hold a high-level political appointee accountable for a scandal. And that might lead to even bigger problems for Obama

“If I did something wrong,” Brennan said. “I will go to the president and I will explain to him what I did and what the findings were. And he is the one who can ask me to stay or to go.”

In Washington, where politicians have mastered the art of the mea culpa, those words would not normally warrant much attention. But for John Brennan, a man entrusted with secrets on everything from Obama’s drone war to his cyber espionage campaign against Iran, Brennan’s talk amounts to a kind of dare. …

It’s possible the investigations will vindicate Brennan. But Feinstein has a very different view of the facts and that could put pressure on Obama to let one of his closest advisers go. If Obama decides to do that, though, he could face the same kind of political problems that many observers believe besieged the George W. Bush administration after the invasion of Iraq. During the 2004 election, many of Bush’s closest allies suspected the CIA was orchestrating a leak campaign to discredit the war in Iraq in protest of what they saw as a politicized decision-making process to invade.

“Any agency can undermine just about anyone,” said Hoekstra, who served as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during the first two years of Bush’s second term. “We saw that under the Bush administration, there were leaks coming out all over the place. You never knew where they were coming from and some of them were coming from the intelligence community and the objective was to embarrass President Bush.”

If the CIA did any snooping on Congress, whether that consisted of monitoring, hacking, or spying, then it’s a huge problem. Just like one can’t get a little bit pregnant, the CIA can’t claim to just have infringed a little bit on the separation of powers and the legitimacy of Congressional oversight into its activities. Feinstein should call Brennan to testify under oath as to the meaning of the word “tremendous,” and make his claims under penalty of perjury.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

If they could do it, they would do it which means they did it.

major dad on March 12, 2014 at 12:46 PM

Why does Feinstein thinks it’s ok to spy on me but not on her?

Oh, right.

Senator…

ladyingray on March 12, 2014 at 12:48 PM

Feinstein should call Brennan to testify under oath as to the meaning of the word “tremendous,” and make his claims under penalty of perjury.


AHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

You got me, Ed!

I didn’t realize this was a political satire piece until the final sentence.

” …make his claims under penalty of perjury.”

Priceless!

PolAgnostic on March 12, 2014 at 12:48 PM

You should.

There are plenty of anti-American sentiment there.

Many of them act like terrorists, at least to me they do.

ProfShadow on March 12, 2014 at 12:49 PM

I miss the old days when the spying stayed secret.

portlandon on March 12, 2014 at 12:50 PM

Funny, the copy of the Constitution I have doesn’t seem to include an Enumerated Power for the general government to hack, spy on, and monitor Americans.

ConstantineXI on March 12, 2014 at 12:50 PM

I miss the old days when the spying stayed secret.

portlandon on March 12, 2014 at 12:50 PM

If they don’t have the right to do it, they didn’t have the right to keep it secret.

I, for one, am glad it got out. Now people are questioning the government and wanting to limit it’s power.

ConstantineXI on March 12, 2014 at 12:51 PM

I believe they did it. People have been given the green light from this Administration to pretty much do as they please knowing they are not being held accountable for anything.

Obama just looks the other way or completely ignores all of this.

Johnnyreb on March 12, 2014 at 12:52 PM

And it’s Democrats, not Republicans, who allege that laws may have been violated and prerogatives bulldozed.

Yep, it’s “different” when it’s done to us!

GarandFan on March 12, 2014 at 12:56 PM

“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” What reason would they have not to do it? The law? Heh!

butch on March 12, 2014 at 12:56 PM

The CIA should do AT LEAST as much spying on Congress as they do for every civilian in the country.

I noticed Feinstein wasn’t too put out by the previous revelations of massive data collection on everyone in fly-over country. But the minute her own staff gets a little monitoring, why that is completely unacceptable!

Clark1 on March 12, 2014 at 1:00 PM

Fluke Sen Feinstien, she 100 percent approved of the NSA spying on us little people, now she is offended because she is being spied on. She’s probably really just scared that her illegally funneling hundreds of billions of tax payer dollars to her husbands company will finally land her in a federal prison where she belongs.

oscarwilde on March 12, 2014 at 1:01 PM

Brennan: We wouldn’t do a “tremendous” amount of spying…

…just a little bit… just a little bit… RSPECT!

de rigueur on March 12, 2014 at 1:02 PM

I heard parts of his testimony on the news and he sounded incredibly evasive and disingenuous. I have no doubt they did it.

tommyboy on March 12, 2014 at 1:03 PM

Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein attacked the CIA for monitoring and snooping on staffers

Well difi, if you’ve done nothing wrong then you have nothing to fear from a little monitoring.

Lost in Jersey on March 12, 2014 at 1:04 PM

None of these people are afraid of perjury charges. Holder is not going to prosecute them and the MSM is not going to report it. The MSM is not going to report anything that might hurt Obama.

What’s Feinstein going to do to Obama? Zilch. He doesn’t care.

Kaffa on March 12, 2014 at 1:06 PM

“If I did something wrong,” Brennan said. “I will go to the president and I will explain to him what I did and what the findings were. And he is the one who can ask me to stay or to go.”

Brennan would already know “if I did something wrong”. What he’s really saying is “if they can prove I did something wrong”

tommyboy on March 12, 2014 at 1:06 PM

Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein attacked the CIA for monitoring and snooping on staffers

Well difi, if you’ve done nothing wrong then you have nothing to fear from a little monitoring.

Lost in Jersey on March 12, 2014 at 1:04 PM

Doh… and therein lies the rub…

oscarwilde on March 12, 2014 at 1:07 PM

Things you will hear:

MITCHELL: She says that there are potentially illegal and unconstitutional breaches by the CIA.

Things you will never hear:

MITCHELL: She says that there are potentially illegal and unconstitutional breaches by the CIA WHITE HOUSE and DOJ.

mankai on March 12, 2014 at 1:10 PM

Meh. The CIA can spy on dems all they want. Oh, sure, they’ll find corruption, money laundering, infidelity, probably kiddie porn, and treason, but we’ll never hear it. The CIA, the FBI, the IRS, and all of federal law enforcement are simply arms of the democrat police state. They may use it to bribe someone, get their mortgage in Maryland or Virginia paid, get their useless kid a DC job, get a federal contract for a spouse, but that’s about it. Business as usual.

Rational Thought on March 12, 2014 at 1:11 PM

If the CIA did any snooping on Congress, whether that consisted of monitoring, hacking, or spying, then it’s a huge problem.

I’m sure the Democrats in the Senate will be shocked when they learn that anyone with any useful information will refuse to answer questions or take the 5th, that requested documents won’t be forthcoming and that the FBI/Justice Dept. will conduct a phony investigation and determine that no laws were violated and that no one will be proscecuted.

Just like one can’t get a little bit pregnant, the CIA can’t claim to just have infringed a little bit on the separation of powers and the legitimacy of Congressional oversight into its activities.

Sure they can. Just the tip, just the tip.

Curtiss on March 12, 2014 at 1:11 PM

…liar…liar…pants on fire!

KOOLAID2 on March 12, 2014 at 1:13 PM

The second act of the next President, Democrat or Republican, should be to fire Brennan and conduct a sweeping purge of that entire agency. Personally, I’d like to see the Company dismantled and then rebuilt into something resembling a legitimate and effective foreign intelligence-gathering organization, but our enemies might view such a drastic restructuring effort as an opportunity window. In any event, it is clear the CIA is no longer capable of doing its job. It is hopelessly politicized and, even worse for us, incredibly incompetent.

I correctly guessed, for example, that the Russians would put boots on the ground in the Ukraine. That warm water port is vital to their strategic interests and always has been. No way were they going to leave it unsecured, no way. Meanwhile, I’m reading that the CIA is confident the Russians won’t make any military moves because their medical units are under-represented among the troops massing at the Ukrainian borders.

I’m a nobody from Nowhere, Indiana, and it was plain to me that of course Putin was going to invade: obviously, naturally. And he did. So for Heaven’s sake, who are these senior analysts drawing these conclusions and why are they still working there? Are they the same spooks who didn’t foresee the implosion of the Soviet Union until the day it happened? The ones who told Tenet to tell President Bush that the presence of WMDs in Iraq was a ‘slam-dunk’? The ones who told us that Iran was ‘many years away’ from nuclear capabiility two years ago?

Fire them. Start with Brennan and work your way down until you find someone capable enough to run that circus.

troyriser_gopftw on March 12, 2014 at 1:14 PM

But they gotta spy, hack and monitor your data because safety.

(Answer we get from the Senate on NSA snooping).

mankai on March 12, 2014 at 1:14 PM

The CIA long ago stopped thinking of itself as law binding. Americans has long ago given a cart Blanche to do what they want and how they want to. S. Please don’t come acting shocked when you discover that they take that cart Blanche seriously and use it freely.

I would not be the least surprise if we find out that the CIA spies on the president of the United States.

coolrepublica on March 12, 2014 at 1:17 PM

Brennan can only hope that Issa takes this up so as to make it disappear for eternity.

Akzed on March 12, 2014 at 1:25 PM

From the James Clapper symposium on qualify statements during congressional testimony.

DanMan on March 12, 2014 at 1:25 PM

The CIA pretty much runs the show now. I had to write to them to get potholes fixed in front of my house.

Akzed on March 12, 2014 at 1:31 PM

“If I did something wrong,” Brennan said. “I will go to the president and I will explain to him what I did and what the findings were. And he is the one who can ask me to stay or to go.

This is out of context, and the question he was asked that prompted this answer is critical.

The question was, “If it turns out the CIA did illegally spy on Congress, will you resign?

This guy won’t even back his denials up with his own credibility.

~~~~

Remember that CIA may have had a legitimate reason for concern. Congressional staffers may have made illegal copies of top secret documents they were allowed to view.

But in that case, they need to call in the FBI and the Attorney General. CIA is prohibited by statute from doing what they are alleged to have done to track those documents.

Adjoran on March 12, 2014 at 1:36 PM

Feinstein’s playing the “covering Feinstein arse” game by targeting that/who/which she knows can be easily compromised (really, easily compromised if only by her, her office, her position, making such an accusation) (which doesn’t mean it isn’t true, however).

Feinstein’s been unnaturally, unreasonably protecting domestic spying — among other activities — for a long time and it’s begun to catch up to her as to her credibility. So now she’s engaged in trying to point fingers to redirect scrutiny.

Based upon what Brennan said,

BRENNAN: Well, there are appropriate authorities right now both inside of CIA, as well as outside of CIA…

MITCHELL: The Justice Department.

BRENNAN: … are looking at what CIA officers, as well as SSCI staff members did. And I defer to them to determine whether or not there was any violation of law or principle, and I referred the matter myself to the CIA inspector general to make sure that he was able to look honestly and objectively at what CIA did there.

And, you know, when the facts come out on this, I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong.

it sure sounds like Brennan’s being as obtuse as he possibly can and that sure suggests he has reason to throw up a cloud, or try to.

Meaning, both Feinstein and Brennan are culpable.

Lourdes on March 12, 2014 at 1:37 PM

CIA is no longer capable of doing its job. It is hopelessly politicized…

troyriser_gopftw on March 12, 2014 at 1:14 PM

I agree. And it’s Leftwing politicized, making it even moreso out of touch with right-actions.

Lourdes on March 12, 2014 at 1:41 PM

The CIA pretty much runs the show now. I had to write to them to get potholes fixed in front of my house.

Akzed on March 12, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Waste of time… they already knew they were they.

mankai on March 12, 2014 at 1:41 PM

I heard parts of his testimony on the news and he sounded incredibly evasive and disingenuous. I have no doubt they did it.

tommyboy on March 12, 2014 at 1:03 PM

My reaction to watching Brennan, too. I expected to see streams of sweat streaming down his neck at any moment. His was what I’d call “an unreliable witness.”

Lourdes on March 12, 2014 at 1:44 PM

Fluke Sen Feinstien, she 100 percent approved of the NSA spying on us little people, now she is offended because she is being spied on. She’s probably really just scared that her illegally funneling hundreds of billions of tax payer dollars to her husbands company will finally land her in a federal prison where she belongs.

oscarwilde on March 12, 2014 at 1:01 PM

Agreed, but it’s a charade. Feinstein vs. Brennan, it’s a charade. Feinstein’s accrued heavy criticism — that I view as appropriate — and she’s just trying to get out in front of the parade to try and recreate her role in the game she and Brennan — and Obama — have been and are playing.

Like I wrote earlier, it’s a “covering her arse” game. She’s been a helping-handler of Obama/Brennan CIA use and abuse and now it’s gotten a bit threadbare as to her popularity, so she’s trying to look like a victim.

Lourdes on March 12, 2014 at 1:48 PM

What difference, at this point, does it make?

Seriously. This same committee allowed DNI Clapper and NSA Director Alexander to lie their asses off when it was spying and collecting data on Americans. These were labeled as the “least untruthful” ways of answering. But NOW that it wasn’t Americans but, rather, the staffs of Congresscritters…. well now Feinstein is upset and has discovered that such action is unconstitutional.

Happy Nomad on March 12, 2014 at 2:05 PM

My reaction to watching Brennan, too. I expected to see streams of sweat streaming down his neck at any moment. His was what I’d call “an unreliable witness.”

Lourdes on March 12, 2014 at 1:44 PM

This was all theater. Anything of significance would be briefed in closed session where classified information can be discussed. This was Brennan being yelled out by outraged Senators for the benefit of the folks watching C-Span and cable news.

Happy Nomad on March 12, 2014 at 2:10 PM

“When the facts come out on this, I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong.”

They do not do a “tremendous” amount of spying on Congress. Just enough to ensure that whatever the White House wants takes place.

Subotai Bahadur on March 12, 2014 at 2:24 PM

I’m reminded of a quote by a shady lawyer:

“My client ain’t THAT guilty !”

viking01 on March 12, 2014 at 2:33 PM

I’m just wondering why someone as fundamentally incompetent as Brennan has a job that involves any level of responsibility – other than when he’s in a meeting with Obama, the President can say he isn’t the dumbest person in the room.

Athos on March 12, 2014 at 2:45 PM

To you Congresscritters that thought you were exempt from being part of the surveilled in the surveillance Nation you created: SUCKERS!

ajacksonian on March 12, 2014 at 2:48 PM

Has this man ever spoken the truth?

Another Drew on March 12, 2014 at 3:03 PM

Athos on March 12, 2014 at 2:45 PM

He’s been on the Saudi payroll for decades.

Another Drew on March 12, 2014 at 3:04 PM

This guy works for the Obama Administration. What does the Liar in Chief have to say?

Mason on March 12, 2014 at 3:58 PM

Brennan would just hire Lois Lerner’s attorney and plead the 5th Amendment to the Congressional committee. Isn’t that considered the proper response to Congressional oversight of the executive branch?

Besides, if it’s not “tremendous” quantities of spying on Congress, then I am positive it’s only a “smidgen.”

DublOh7 on March 12, 2014 at 4:04 PM

“But if they are going to talk to and negotiate revealing secrets to foreign entities, we will collect that data”, Brennan

jake49 on March 12, 2014 at 4:18 PM

Brennan has got to go.

oldennis on March 12, 2014 at 4:26 PM

This was Brennan being yelled out by outraged Senators for the benefit of the folks watching C-Span and cable news.

Happy Nomad on March 12, 2014 at 2:10 PM

And, as I wrote earlier ^^, it was Feinstein “covering her arse.” Otherwise known as theatre. Feinstein/Brennan/Obama et al. trying to maintain face.

Lourdes on March 12, 2014 at 6:40 PM