WASHINGTON — CIA Director John Brennan apologized to Senate Intelligence Committee leaders after an internal agency inquiry found that CIA employees conducted unauthorized searches of Senate computers.
The CIA's inspector general concluded that "some employees acted in a manner inconsistent'' with an agreement reached between the Senate and the CIA governing the Senate's inquiry into agency detention and interrogation techniques, CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said in a written statement.
Senators said the breach interfered with the committee's investigation. The detention and interrogation report, which promises a scathing review of U.S. treatment of al-Qaeda suspects immediately following the 9/11 attacks, has not yet been released.
"The director is committed to correcting any shortcomings related to this matter,'' Boyd said, adding that Brennan is commissioning a special accountability board to review the inspector general's findings, which could lead to disciplinary measures.
Earlier this month, a Justice Department official said no criminal investigation would be launched into the CIA's access of a congressional database.
"The department carefully reviewed the matters referred to us and did not find sufficient evidence to warrant a criminal investigation,'' Justice spokesman Peter Carr said then.
In March, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said the CIA's actions "may have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the U.S. Constitution.''
And Thursday, Feinstein said the internal CIA report "confirmed'' her March statement.
"Director Brennan apologized for these actions and submitted the IG report to an accountability board,'' the chairwoman said. "These are positive first steps. The IG report corrects the record.''
Others were more harsh in their assessments of both the CIA and Brennan's leadership.
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., a intelligence panel member, said Brennan had previously demonstrated an "abject failure to acknowledge any wrongdoing by the agency,'' and the senator called for the appointment of an independent counsel to review the matter for possible criminal violations.
"I have lost faith in John Brennan,'' Udall said.
Udall went on to recount Brennan's first assessments of senators' concerns for the CIA actions, which the director called "spurious allegations that are wholly unsupported by facts."
"Brennan needs to account for these statements,'' the Colorado senator said.
Christopher Anders, the ACLU's senior legislative counsel, said the director's apology "is not enough.''
Anders also called for the matter to be referred to federal prosecutors.
"It is hard to imagine a greater threat to the Constitution's system of checks and balances than have the CIA spy on the computers used by the very Senate staff carrying out the Senate's constitutional duty of oversight over the executive branch,'' Anders said.
Boyd said it was Brennan who asked for the inspector general's review earlier this year when he became concerned that Senate staffers may have improperly accessed CIA documents related to the detention and interrogation program.
Brennan recognized "the importance of this matter and the need to resolve it in a way that preserved the crucial equities of both branches,'' Boyd said, adding that Brennan also directed the CIA offices involved to cooperate with Senate's sergeant-at-arms, who is conducting a separate review of the Senate staff's activities. That inquiry is ongoing.
Contributing: Susan Davis.