CIA accused of spying on Senate staffers' computers

(WJLA/AP) - The White House says President Barack Obama agrees with CIA Director John Brennan that it's important to get to the bottom of whether the spy agency violated any laws with respect to a Senate panel's investigation.

White House spokesman Jay Carney isn't taking sides between the CIA and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, who is accusing the CIA of violating the Constitution by interfering with the committee that oversees it. The California Democrat alleges the CIA improperly accessed Senate computers, and is calling for an apology from the agency.

“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," she said.

“I have grave concerns that the CIA's search may well have violated the separation of powers principle embodied in the United States Constitution."

At an event in Northwest Washington on Tuesday, CIA Director John Brennan fired back:

"Nothing could be further from the truth. I mean we wouldn't do that. I mean
that's just beyond the scope of reason in terms of what we would do."

Feinstein remembers it differently, however, saying that Brennan told her that agency personnel searched the computers due to a belief that the panel might have had access to an internal CIA report.

"The CIA did not ask the Committee or its staff if the committee had access to the internal review or how we obtained it," said Feinstein. "Instead, the CIA just went and searched the Committee's computers."

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he supports Feinstein on the issue, and the White House says it has confidence in Brennan, but will not comment further.

Carney says he can't comment because there's an ongoing review by an inspector general, and that the matter has also been referred to the Justice Department.

Carney also says there have been periodic disputes about the Senate panel's allegations that the CIA used torture during the Bush administration. He says Obama supports that investigation and wants its eventual findings declassified.