Central Intelligence Director (CIA) Director John Brennan gestures during a news conference at CIA
WASHINGTON (AP) — Their disputes over who spied on whom and censoring the Senate's scathing torture report are history. But the personal feud between Sen. Dianne Feinstein and CIA Director John Brennan may only be getting worse.
Relations between the outgoing Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman and America's top spy appeared to hit a new low Thursday as Feinstein live-tweeted comments contradicting Brennan as he publicly addressed her panel's sweeping allegations of CIA wrongdoing. While Feinstein later praised Brennan for accepting many of her inquiry's conclusions, the damage was done.
"#ReadTheReport" was the refrain from Feinstein as Brennan held a rare news conference at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. She berated the CIA chief for suggesting, contrary to her report, that the agency's "enhanced interrogation techniques" were legal and may have helped lead to the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Brennan acknowledged CIA officers did "abhorrent" things and were unprepared to run a detention program after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Yet he was hardly praiseworthy of Feinstein and fellow Democrats, calling it "lamentable" they interviewed no CIA personnel to ask, "What were you thinking?" He called the investigation "flawed."
For the two main protagonists in this week's drama, bickering is nothing new.
In an extraordinary scene nine months ago, Feinstein took to the Senate floor to accuse the CIA of interfering with her investigation and trying to intimidate the committee's staffers by referring them to the Justice Department. The California senator suggested criminal laws and the Constitution were being violated.
Brennan fired back, denying his personnel spied on Senate investigators and indicating they may have committed a crime by improperly accessing sensitive CIA documents. On Feinstein's allegations, he said, "We wouldn't do that."
Months of testy back-and-forth ensued.
Feinstein seemed to emerge the victor as the Justice Department refused to launch a criminal probe. An internal CIA review then faulted five employees at the agency for hacking into the intelligence committee's computers and emails. Brennan apologized to Feinstein and her colleagues.
But that was as far as the spat went. Democrats who wanted Brennan reprimanded or even fired were rebuffed by the White House, which stood by one of President Barack Obama's closest and longest-serving aides.
And the CIA fared significantly better in a concurrent battle over what to black out in the torture report's 500-page executive summary and conclusions. Feinstein's plea for Obama to intervene fell on deaf ears.
The bad blood between the pair was there for all to see Thursday.
After Brennan credited detainees subjected to harsh interrogations with producing information used in the operation to find bin Laden, Feinstein said her report proved definitively that waterboarding and the like provided no such help.
When he declared it "unknowable" whether harsh interrogations were responsible for valuable intelligence, she wrote: "CIA had info before torture."
Also among her two dozen tweets was a question to Brennan about a waterboard and buckets found at a site where the near drownings never officially happened. When asked by a reporter on that point at the news conference, Brennan said he was aware of no undeclared waterboarding.
By the end of the day, Feinstein struck a more conciliatory tone, conceding in a statement that Brennan's remarks "were not what I expected."
"They showed that CIA leadership is prepared to prevent this from ever happening again — which is all-important," she said.