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CIA secretly intercepted Congressional communications about whistleblowers

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  • CIA intercepted Congressional emails about whistleblowers in 2014
  • The Inspector General expressed concern about “potential compromise to whistleblower confidentiality” and “chilling effect”

Newly-declassified documents show the CIA intercepted sensitive Congressional communications about intelligence community whistleblowers.

The intercepts occurred under CIA Director John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. The new disclosures are contained in two letters of “Congressional notification” originally written to key members of Congress in March 2014, but kept secret until now.

In the letters, then-Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough tells four key members of Congress 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 states that he’s 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.”

The idea that the CIA would monitor communications of U.S. government officials, including those in the legislative branch, is itself controversial. But in this case, the CIA picked up some of the most sensitive emails between Congress and intelligence agency workers blowing the whistle on alleged wrongdoing.

John Brennan, former Obama CIA Director and Homeland Security Adviser

“Most of these emails concerned pending and developing whistleblower complaints,” McCullough states in his letters to lead Democrats and Republicans on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees at the time: Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia); and Representatives Michael Rogers (R-Michigan) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Maryland). McCullough adds that the type of monitoring that occurred was “lawful and justified for [counterintelligence] purposes” but

“I am not confident that Congressional staff fully understood that their whistleblower-related communications with my Executive Director of whistleblowing might be reviewed as a result of routine [CIA counterintelligence] monitoring.”–Intelligence Community Inspector General 2014

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