The United States’ massive spy efforts have drawn a lot of heat from the general public, but has generally been supported by Congress and the Executive administration. Now, however, a rift is growing between America’s intelligence community and members of Congress over accusations that CIA has been spying on Congress itself.
Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman, has accused the CIA of spying on members of Congress, searching through computers used by the Committee and at least one network used by staffers. According to Feinstein, if true this would be a violation of the separation of powers principle embodied in the Constitution.
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CIA on the counter-offensive
The CIA has denied the charge and claimed that it would not engage in such activities. According to the CIA, members of the Senate are acting on mere rumors and speculation, and the agency will be exonerated in the long run.
Indeed, the CIA charges that Congress itself may be the one in the wrong. According to the CIA, there are reasons to believe that Congressional staffers have illegally obtained internal documents and reviews from the CIA. Congressional leaders have denied this accusation and claim that all documents were obtained with a search tool provided by the CIA itself to search through documents.
Major fallout brewing
The rift between Congress and the CIA, however, could have a major fallout on U.S. intelligence efforts. Congress has been one of the few strong supporters of American spy efforts and also has a tremendous amount of oversight powers in regards to spying and executive powers in general. So far, Congress has used its powers rather sparingly in regards to overseeing or limiting intelligence efforts.
Now, however, that previously strong working relationship may be at risk. Dianne Feinstein was one of the intelligence community’s strongest, so her change in stance is gaining a lot of attention. Further, the move could embolden members of Congress who have been opposed to spy efforts, but forced to stay quiet amid inter-party pressure.
Congress and CIA out of touch with society?
Of course, one might wonder why Congressional members are so upset in the first place. If Congress is so willing to support spying on American citizens and the leaders of allies around the world, why should it consider itself exempt from such activities? Many American citizens have charged that the country’s spy efforts violate Constitutional rights on a regular basis, a serious charge in a country that holds its Constitution in such high esteem.
The most recent public rift between Congress and the Intelligence Community could quickly stir up resentment and accusations that political leaders want themselves held to a double standard. Many Americans have vocally opposed the country’s spy efforts. Now, with Congress trying to establish its own special “no-touch” status, more and more Americans may come to view spying efforts as hypocritical.