CIA secretly intercepted Congressional communications about whistleblowers

  • CIA intercepted Congressional emails about whistleblowers in 2014
  • The Inspector General expressed concern about “potential compromise to whistleblower confidentiality” and “chilling effect”

Newly-declassified documents show the CIA intercepted sensitive Congressional communications about intelligence community whistleblowers.

The intercepts occurred under CIA Director John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. The new disclosures are contained in two letters of “Congressional notification” originally written to key members of Congress in March 2014, but kept secret until now.

In the letters, then-Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough tells four key members of Congress that during “routine counterintelligence monitoring of Government computer systems,” the CIA collected emails between Congressional staff and the CIA’s head of whistleblowing and source protection. McCullough states that he’s concerned “about the potential compromise to whistleblower confidentiality and the consequent ‘chilling effect’ that the present [counterintelligence] monitoring system might have on Intelligence Community whistleblowing.”

The idea that the CIA would monitor communications of U.S. government officials, including those in the legislative branch, is itself controversial. But in this case, the CIA picked up some of the most sensitive emails between Congress and intelligence agency workers blowing the whistle on alleged wrongdoing.

John Brennan, former Obama CIA Director and Homeland Security Adviser

“Most of these emails concerned pending and developing whistleblower complaints,” McCullough states in his letters to lead Democrats and Republicans on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees at the time: Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia); and Representatives Michael Rogers (R-Michigan) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Maryland). McCullough adds that the type of monitoring that occurred was “lawful and justified for [counterintelligence] purposes” but [quote]“I am not confident that Congressional staff fully understood that their whistleblower-related communications with my Executive Director of whistleblowing might be reviewed as a result of routine [CIA counterintelligence] monitoring.”–Intelligence Community Inspector General 2014[/quote]

The disclosures from 2014 were released late Thursday by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). “The fact that the CIA under the Obama administration was reading Congressional staff’s emails about intelligence community whistleblowers raises serious policy concerns as well as potential Constitutional separation-of-powers issues that must be discussed publicly,” wrote Grassley in a statement.

According to Grassley, he originally began trying to have the letters declassified more than four years ago but was met with “bureaucratic foot-dragging, led by Brennan and Clapper.”

James Clapper, former Obama Director of National Intelligence

Grassley adds that he repeated his request to declassify the letters under the Trump administration, but that Trump intelligence officials failed to respond. The documents were finally declassified this week after Grassley appealed to the new Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson.

History of alleged surveillance abuses

Back in 2014, Senators Grassley and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) had asked then-Director of National Intelligence Clapper about the possibility of the CIA monitoring Congressional communications. A Congressional staffer involved at the time says Clapper’s response seemed to imply that if Congressional communications were “incidentally” collected by the CIA, the material would not be saved or reported up to CIA management.

“In the event of a protected disclosure by a whistleblower somehow comes to the attention of personnel responsible for monitoring user activity,” Clapper wrote to Grassley and Wyden on July 25, 2014, “there is no intention for such disclosure to be reported to agency leadership under an insider threat program.”

However, the newly-declassified letters indicate the opposite happened in reality with the whistleblower-related emails: “CIA security compiled a report that include excerpts of… whistleblower-related communications and this reports was eventually shared with… the Director of the Office of Security and the Chief of the Counterintelligence Center” who “briefed the CIA Deputy Director, Deputy Executive Director, and the Chiefs of Staff for both the CIA Director and the Deputy Director.”

Clapper has previously come under fire for his 2013 testimony to Congress in which he denied that the national Security Agency (NSA) collects data on millions of Americans. Weeks later, Clapper’s statement was proven false by material leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

“During Director Clapper’s tenure, senior intelligence officials engaged in a deception spree regarding mass surveillance,” said Wyden upon Clapper’s retirement in 2016. “Top officials, officials who reported to Director Clapper, repeatedly misled the American people and even lied to them.”

Clapper has repeatedly denied lying, and said that any incorrect information he provided was due to misunderstandings or mistakes.

Clapper and Brennan have also acknowledged taking part in the controversial practice of “unmasking” the protected names of U.S. citizens— including people connected to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump— whose communications were “incidentally” captured in US counterintelligence operations. Unmaskings within the U.S intelligence community are supposed to be extremely rare and only allowed under carefully justified circumstances. This is to protect the privacy rights of American citizens. But it’s been revealed that Obama officials requested unmaskings on a near daily basis during the election year of 2016.

Clapper and Brennan have said their activities were lawful and not politically motivated. Both men have become vocal critics of President Trump.[hr]

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54 thoughts on “CIA secretly intercepted Congressional communications about whistleblowers”

  1. Our corrupt government officials never get prosecuted. Until that starts happening the corrupt activities will never subside. They do whatever they want without consequences. The rule of law doesn’t apply to them. Shameful.

  2. important typo should be corrected-

    In the letters, then-Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough tells four key members of Congress that during “routing counterintelligence monitoring of Government computer systems,”

    “routing” should be “routine”

  3. I’ve been in the government as military and civilian for night on 40 years.

    I would bet that the computer the Congressional folks used had a caveat that said that use of the computer implied consent to monitor.

    I’ve never heard that people from different branches were exempt from monitoring and I’m not saying it was right and that abuse did not occur.

    Just that the standard is that, if you use the system, you will be monitored.

    1. Monitoring differs greatly from harvesting and reporting up through the channels to the Director, and thence to the President, when the information is of protected status, is lawful and may well be to the detriment of the President and his appointees.
      Therefore, this is not monitoring – this is espionage.

      1. As if that made any difference…no, she was on “their” side…wouldn’t surprise me if she was Brennan’s puppet master, she or Obama. Most corrupt administration ever – all covered up by MSM. Fake news is now painting the picture that trump, who is trying to restore to normal, when we could actually trust our govt, yeah, trump is the chaos and the cheat. It’s completely backwards – Saul alinsky – but it works, the sheep eat it up. Pray on Tuesday there are more truth seekers than sheep, else the evil doers will be empowered

      2. I agree with you — I’m sure those machines told users ‘you will be monitored.’ However monitoring to assure appropriate (government business use ought to be local — not beyond the IG of the various departments and bureaus — and confined to that question, with monitoring resulots going NOWHERE else except for ‘inappropriate use’ purposes. I’d expect that to be within the department/bureau.

        This is altogether different: It’s the purposeful transmission outside the using organization of the most sensitive sorts of government business

        What’s an agency going to do? “Sorry we can’t talk about this on a GOVERNMENT computer because it might be monitored by someone else in GOVERNMENT?”

      3. If she had done that, she wouldn’t have had a problem….security wise that is. The system referred to here is a classified one.

        Just to be clear, the intent of monitoring is not to spy on employees. It’s simply to ensure that security protocols are being followed, that info of higher classification is not being sent, etc.

        I have no problem with that in the least. I also was involved in monitoring missions to an extent and we were rigorous in ensuring we stayed in our lane.

        In this instance, if the reporting is to be believed, the CIA did not do that. They should be hammered for that.

        1. Brennan and Clapper were illegally spying on innocent Americans. They used an illegal surveillance system in order to blackmail judges and other innocent Americans. They were creating a police state…Their actions were destroying the Constitution. They belong being tried for treason.

    2. Do they now have to write secret letters, and hard-drive them to the appropriate parties, to maintain confidentiality?

      I understand your point, clearly. But I guess what concerns me is:. If a CIA employee, is trying to “blow the whistle” on wrong-doing, WITHIN THE CIA, how is that employee supposed to report the problems, to the appropriate parties, without being subjected to potential retaliation/intimidation, from their own CIA Management, who are reading the emails, of the Whistle-blower?

    3. I tried to reply to your comment, previously, but something went wrong….so I’m retyping it, now.
      Regarding your above comments, about everybody understanding that their email’s being monitored:. I completely understand your point. My only concern is, if you’re a Whistle-blower, how are you supposed to have any confidentiality, to protect you from potential retaliation/intimidation, from Management, who are seeing your emails? Do Whistle-blowers now need to write a letter, and hand-deliver it to the appropriate parties, in order to protect themselves?

    4. There are also federal whistleblower laws that seem to have been violated. There is a strict prohibition on those who are the subject being given access. There is also the little fact that the CIA is prohibited from gathering information within the U.S.

  4. This is what communists do, so it should surprise no-one that that the Marshal Davis progeny and his KGB snooped on Congress.

    You have to know that this is the tip of iceberg.

  5. Thank you Sharyl. What happenned to you should never happen to any person by any government, much less an American journalist whose privacy rights are clearly spelled out in the first and fourth amendments to the US Constitution.

    I am am amazed that a Intelligence Community Inspector General does not know the difference between legal and lawful. McCullough claims these intercepts are lawful. While this type of spying may be legal, that is it may have been sanctioned by statutory law that was properly passed by legislation through Congress and then signed by the President, it is not lawful. It is not lawful because it is in clear violation of natural law and the Constitution, which is based on natural law. In this case, whatever federal statutes they are using to justify this do not pass the test of the Supremacy Clause of our constitution since this statute the are using is clearly not in the pusuance of the Constitution.

    I know. I know. We don’t use the Constitution anymore. Why engage in arcane legal philosophy that has governed free men since at least Runnymeade? Well, its Saturday morning, the kids are still asleep and I have a good cup of coffee in hand. When is there a better time to engage in arcane Western Legal philosophy?

  6. Whether intercepting congressional communications or hijacking geoengineering/weather technology, the CIA reigns. If you enjoy intrigue, subterfuge, deception and conflict … settle in for a wild ride through the Weather. The complete impact of this story comes from carefully reading and contemplating the text while diligently watching and reading on The Ole’ Buzzard’s WP Blog

  7. I’m tired of the Government being treated different than the taxpayers. It seems they never get punished. Unless they are Republicans of course.

  8. Just IMAGINE where we’d be now if Hillary Clinton had been elected. People who are not inspired to vote Dems out are either STUPID or CORRUPT.

  9. “A 1981 Executive Order 12333 restricts the CIA from collecting intelligence on US citizens.”
    My understanding is in order to do this, they would have had to get either senior level approval or a FISC warrant?

  10. Thank you for your valuable investigative reporting! YOU exemplify the reasons we have a “free press”. Those who tow the party line, pretending to be “non partisan objective reporters”, are complicit with the Deep State’s desire to erode our Constitutional freedoms!

    Tragically, any in-depth investigative reporting like yours is IGNORED by the main stream “news” agencies. THIS NEEDS TO BE ON TODAY’S HEADLINES, BEFORE VOTING TOMORROW!

    Thank you!

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