WASHINGTON – CIA Director John Brennan is regarded by many inside the agency as the most detail-oriented spy chief in a generation, an executive who maintains such tight control of departments and decisions that some subordinates grumble at his reluctance to delegate.
But the latest rupture in his relationship with Congress has prompted lawmakers to question both his command of elements of his workforce and of the facts surrounding their search of computers used by congressional investigators.
An internal CIA report released Thursday included findings that were seen by many as at odds with Brennan’s denial of any wrongdoing on the part of the agency. The report found that five CIA employees had been improperly searching computer files and reading emails of Senate investigators probing the agency’s use of harsh interrogation measures on terrorism suspects.
The conclusions of the review are not a vote of confidence in the CIA director, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Friday. Citing the gap between Brennan’s previous statements and the newly disclosed facts, Graham said, It makes me wonder what else he doesn’t know.
With some lawmakers calling for Brennan’s resignation, President Barack Obama declared Friday that he had full confidence in his CIA director, noting that Brennan had apologized to Senate leaders and had asked for the internal investigation that forced him to admit he had been wrong.
The criticism of Brennan comes at an important time for the CIA, just before the release of a Senate investigation of the agency’s interrogation program after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The timing couldn’t be worse for Brennan, who has indicated that he plans to challenge some of the committee findings, said a senior U.S. official who has read the report. He needs his credibility. It’s not great timing for him to lead a chorus of criticism of the substance of the report.
Obama said the report had been returned to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday after review and declassification by the administration, putting the panel in position to finally release a report it has spent five years assembling.
But Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chair of the intelligence committee, said the report arrived on Capitol Hill with significant redactions. We need additional time to understand the basis for these redactions and determine their justification, she said Therefore the report will be held until further notice.