All-Star Panel: CIA spying on the Senate?

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 11, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D - CA: I have asked for an apology and a recognition that this CIA search of computers used by its Oversight Committee was inappropriate. I have received neither. Besides the constitutional implication, the CIA search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the computer fraud and abuse act, as well as the executive order 12333 which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.

JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: 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.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Extraordinary day. The Senate Democratic committee chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, on the floor of the Senate for 38 minutes, charging that the CIA was spying on her committee and removed some 1,000 documents that dealt with detention policies and detention and interrogation of suspected terrorists during the Bush-Cheney era. There you heard the CIA director pushing back.

We are back with the panel. Charles, it's hard to imagine this back and forth. It was kind of remarkable today.

KRAUTHAMMER: And these are two major powerful institutions, each run by Democrats. As we heard Feinstein accusing the CIA of acting inappropriately, unconstitutionally, and criminally, CIA responds that the committee itself had criminally or unconstitutionally stolen or copied a report of the CIA itself, the so-called Panetta report, stashed it over in the Hart office building illegally as well.

The CIA denies -- I mean, we saw the head of the CIA says in the end will be shown to be OK. Feinstein says that the CIA actually confessed that it had done this and apologized, and then changed its mind and blamed the White House, another Democratically run institution. What I like the best about this is that Lindsey Graham, a Republican, comes upon the brawl, and he says that if true the Congress would declare war on the CIA.  Interestingly, we haven't declared war on anybody since Pearl Harbor.  Lindsey comes across the fight and he hands out Molotov cocktails to all the participants. You have got to love that guy.
BAIER: It was something to watch.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: It was really amazing. This is not a partisan battle. This is a very complex bit of warfare. You have people like Lindsey Graham and John McCain who don't love the CIA and have clashed with them in the past. And Dianne Feinstein --

BAIER: On both Republican and Democratic policies and administrations.

LIASSON: Yes. This is not a partisan fight. And Dianne Feinstein is a supporter usually of the intelligence community, and she is hopping mad.  We are going to get finally to the bottom of this and find out finally what happened. It's either going to be as she describes it or John Brennan describes it which is nothing wrong happened.

JONAH GOLDBERG, AT LARGE EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: This is part of an angle it this, although I agree the actual mess we are looking at now is not partisan, but it is all in the tail wind of the initial Senate report, which a lot of people at the CIA consider to be a railroad job, really unfair to the CIA and to the Bush administration. And their belief and other people's belief is that the partisan Democrats want that report out there to cast bad light on the Bush administration. That in turn poisoned the well between these two institutions.

BAIER: So wait a second, then the theory would be that the White House and the CIA director under Brennan are trying to protect the Bush administration?

GOLDBERG: No. They are trying to protect the CIA which doesn't want to air all of this dirty laundry and declassify all sorts of things that they want to keep classified.

BAIER: Listen to the CIA director asked about if push comes to shove and it finds out that he is at fault.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If it is proved that the CIA did do this, would you feel that you had to step down?

BRENNAN: I am confident that the authorities will review this appropriately. And I will deal with the facts as uncovered in the appropriate manner. And so if there was any inappropriate actions that were taken related to that review, either by CIA or by the [INAUDIBLE] staff, I will be the first one to say we need to get to the bottom of it. And, if I did something wrong, I will go to the president and I will explain to him exactly what I did and what the findings were. And he is the one who can ask me to stay or to go.


BAIER: So there you have it. He is the one.

LIASSON: He doesn't seem very worried.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: No. It sounds as if he is saying if CIA did it, it wasn't me, somebody else in the CIA. Look, everybody here is covering his rear end. I don't imagine that this White House would be defending the Bush CIA. Remember at the beginning of this administration, the Department of Justice wanted to go and to prosecute, retry essentially people who had been accused of acting improperly in the Bush years on interrogation. I think this is clearly a family fight among large personalities in the Democratic Party. And if Feinstein is right I think there are going to be people in the CIA who are going to have to go. But it's not going to be the chief.

BAIER: But to Jonah's point, there was a feeling that that report in those circles was unfair to that -- those people back then. Brennan was one of those people back then.

LIASSON: Yeah. I mean, that's what makes this all incredibly complicated.

KRAUTHAMMER: But that's not why the Obama White House was putting pressure on the CIA. That was purely institutional. It was not a way to defend the Bush actions because they try to go after the Bush actions.

GOLDBERG: Even Leon Panetta says that this Panetta report isn't what the press is making it out to be.

BAIER: That is it for the panel. We will stay on this. But stay tuned for a look at what some are giving up for Lent this year.

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