Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, took another swipe at the CIA on Wednesday, saying it was the agency, not the Senate, that spent $40 million on the study into the CIA’s rendition and interrogation program.
The cost of the study has been one criticism that CIA supporters and Republicans have launched against the report, which found that the CIA’s use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques not only was brutal and unsupervised but ineffective.
But Feinstein said that, like the false claims that the harsh interrogations had led to important anti-terrorism successes, the claim that the Senate spent $40 million on the report is also untrue.
“The Senate Intelligence Committee study of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program was completed entirely with existing committee resources,” Feinstein said in a statement circulated by email. “The overwhelming majority of the $40 million cost was incurred by the CIA and was caused by the CIA’s own unprecedented demands to keep documents away from the committee.”
The statement said Feinstein had complained repeatedly about the agency’s hiring of so many contractors during the years-long study, to no avail. The chair “wrote several letters objecting to this unprecedented action, pointing out the wasted expense and unnecessary delays.”
“Rather than provide documents for the committee to review in its own secure Senate office – as is standard practice – the CIA insisted on establishing a separate leased facility and a ‘stand-alone’ computer network for committee use,” the statement said. “The CIA hired teams of contractors to review every document, multiple times, to ensure they were relevant and not potentially subject to a claim of executive privilege. Only after those costly reviews were the documents then provided to committee staff.”
The arrangement, the statement claimed, “allowed CIA personnel to remove documents it had provided for the committee’s use and to inappropriately gain access to the committee staff’s computer network and email” – a controversy that became public earlier this year, leading to a bitter dispute that ended with CIA Director John Brennan apologizing.
The CIA put responsibility for the cost on the Senate committee, agreeing with Feinstein only that what took place was “unprecedented.”
“The committee’s demands of CIA in this investigation were unprecedented and the accommodation by CIA was unprecedented,” the agency said in an email attributed to an unidentified CIA spokesperson and that referred to the committee by an acronym.
“Given SSCI’s urgent requests for millions of pages of highly classified information held by CIA, of course the agency had to create a special facility to ensure the secure exchange of such materials with SSCI. Had the Agency utilized other methods, this process would likely still be ongoing. The agency was forced to devote thousands and thousands of man hours and extensive resources responding to committee requests related to this investigation over more than a five-year period.”