This news of a Senator, a Democrat no less, making the subtle suggestion that the Obama administration knew about the CIA spying on Congress seems like a big deal (emphasis mine):
A leading US senator has said that President Obama knew of an “unprecedented action” taken by the CIA against the Senate intelligence committee, which has apparently prompted an inspector general’s inquiry at Langley.
The subtle reference in a Tuesday letter from Senator Mark Udall to Obama, seeking to enlist the president’s help in declassifying a 6,300-page inquiry by the committee into torture carried out by CIA interrogators after 9/11, threatens to plunge the White House into a battle between the agency and its Senate overseers.
McClatchy and the New York Times reported Wednesday that the CIA had secretly monitored computers used by committee staffers preparing the inquiry report, which is said to be scathing not only about the brutality and ineffectiveness of the agency’s interrogation techniques but deception by the CIA to Congress and policymakers about it. The CIA sharply disputes the committee’s findings.
Udall, a Colorado Democrat and one of the CIA’s leading pursuers on the committee, appeared to reference that surreptitious spying on Congress, which Udall said undermined democratic principles.
“As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the committee in relation to the internal CIA review and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee’s oversight powers and for our democracy,” Udall wrote to Obama on Tuesday.
Of course, we already knew that Congress has been spied on by the executive branch. The NSA has been spying on pretty much everyone in America, including Congress, and when the agency has been specifically asked about gathering and storing the private data of members of Congress they have refused to answer the question.
You could argue that the NSA’s surveillance of Congress was passive rather than active – that their data was being scooped up just like everybody else’s – unlike the CIA which stands accused of active infiltration for a specific purpose, but once we cross that bright line into what can fairly be described as spying on Congress do such distinctions even matter?