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Attkisson: CIA Under John Brennan Spied on Intel Whistleblowers, Congress

Former CIA director John Brennan -- shown here in September 2016 -- says he knows he has a "bullseye" on his chest over his comments on Donald Trump
GETTY/AFP/MARK WILSON

Investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson writes in the Hill that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been using its surveillance on American citizens “for the better part of two decades, if not longer.”

“Maybe you once thought the CIA wasn’t supposed to spy on Americans here in the United States,” said the Emmy-winning investigative journalist. “That concept is so yesteryear.” She points to newly declassified 2014 documents which “reveal the CIA not only intercepted emails of U.S. citizens, but they were emails of the most sensitive kind,” namely about whistleblowers:

The disclosures, kept secret until now, are two letters of “congressional notification” from the Intelligence Community inspector general at the time, Charles McCullough. He stated 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 was 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.”

While the CIA is supposedly restricted to spying on individuals “only for an authorized intelligence purpose” such as when someone is suspected of terrorism, they have also given themselves carte blanche to perform “routine counterintelligence monitoring of government computers.”

“The only reason we know any of this now is thanks to Sen. Chuck Grassley,” Attkisson said. Grassley pursued these “congressional notifications” for years while his staff was being spied on– but both the Obama and Trump administrations have made it exceedingly difficult to get at the information therein. The surveillance information was finally declassified by the new Intelligence Community Inspector General, Michael Atkinson.

“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,” Grassley wrote in a statement.

Attkisson concludes with a rebuke of American complacency, saying:

But today, we’ve grown numb. Outrage has been replaced by a cynical, “Who’s surprised about that?” or the persistent belief that “Nothing’s really going to be done about it,” and, worst of all, “What’s so bad about it, anyway?”

She pointed to the FBI’s bald-faced attempts to stop President Trump from being elected as a symptom of a broader concern; that “bad actors targeting candidate Donald Trump and his associates” in order to keep people from learning that “our Intelligence Community [has been] increasingly spying on its own citizens, journalists, members of Congress and political enemies for the better part of two decades, if not longer.”

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