President Obama remains confident in CIA Director John Brennan’s leadership despite an independent investigation that concluded that the agency had overreached its authority by spying on Senate staffers.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the findings had not diminished Brennan’s standing in the administration.
When asked whether it damaged his authority or credibility in any way, Earnest said: “Absolutely not.”
Brennan first appointed an outside watchdog to conduct an investigation into the allegations, has “been candid” about the “inconsistencies” that the inspector found, apologized and took the step of appointing a panel to review the need for disciplinary action, he said.
“That’s the kind of proactive leadership that the president would expect from somebody who has an important job, like running the CIA, and it in no way impacts any judgment on John Brennan’s strong record of making the kinds of difficult decisions that are necessary to keep the American public safe,” he said.
Brennan apologized to Senate Intelligence Committee leaders Thursday after the CIA acknowledged that an inspector general report found that some agency employees acted in a manner “inconsistent” with the understanding the Senate and the agency set up regarding computers Senate aides used to access classified documents during its investigation into the CIA’s history of detention and interrogation activities.
In a statement released to the Associated Press on Thursday, CIA spokesman Dean Boyd announced the inspector general’s general findings and said Brennan had apologized to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., its ranking member.
“Director Brennan was briefed on the CIA [inspector general’s] findings,” Boyd said “The director subsequently informed [Feinstein and Chambliss] of the findings and apologized to them for such actions by CIA officers as described in the report,” he said.
Dean also said the CIA is forming an “accountability board” to weigh potential disciplinary action for those involved in the Senate snooping.
He also said Brennan is “committed to correcting any shortcomings related to this matter.”
The apology and admission of some level of guilt stands in stark contrast to Brennan’s angry denials early this year after Feinstein openly and angrily accused the CIA of spying on the Senate.
At the time Brennan said “nothing could be further from the truth” and called the allegation “beyond the scope of reason.”
After receiving the apology, Feinstein said the investigation confirmed her accusations on the Senate floor in March — that the CIA inappropriately searched Senate Intelligence Committee computers in violation of the separation of powers.
“Director Brennan apologized for these actions and submitted the IG report to an accountability board,” she said. “These are positive steps. This [inspectors general] report will be made available to the public shortly.”
The rare open clash between a Senate committee and the CIA erupted in early spring when Senate aides uncovered that they had stumbled onto copies of some internal agency documents on the computers. They immediately became concerned about a potential security breach and finger-pointing from both sides over potential inappropriate spying on the other.
At one point, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who serves on the intelligence panel, said he had lost confidence in Brennan. Udall and freshman Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., both called for Brennan's resignation Thursday.