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CIA Gathered Congressional Communications on Whistleblowing; After 4 Years of Pressing, Grassley Gets Notifications Declassified

WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley pressed for more than four years to declassify two Congressional Notifications indicating that, during the Obama administration, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) obtained congressional communications about pending and developing whistleblower complaints. Those two notifications were finally declassified this week.
In response to Grassley’s most recent letter on this issue, Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) Michael Atkinson wrote Grassley and provided the two, declassified notifications within two weeks.
“The fact that the CIA under the Obama administration was reading Congressional staff’s emails about intelligence community whistleblowers raises serious policy concerns as well as potential Constitutional separation-of-powers issues that must be discussed publicly. I have been asking the same question for years: what sources or methods would be jeopardized by the declassification of these notifications? After four and a half years of bureaucratic foot-dragging, led by Directors Brennan and Clapper, we finally have the answer: none. The CIA has a vitally important function, especially when it comes to their critical counterintelligence work, but nothing—nothing—should inhibit or interfere with Congress’ constitutional job and protecting whistleblowers,” Grassley said. “To assign credit where credit is due, Inspector General Atkinson and his office were responsive and engaging on something that appeared intractable if small. I thank him for his work. Since the inception of this country, blowing the whistle has played an integral role in maintaining good government. It would be unacceptable and unpatriotic to overlook any action that could dissuade responsible citizens from disclosing waste, fraud and abuse in our government.”
Each of the two notifications relate to communications between the ICIG Director of Whistleblowing & Source Protection and congressional staff obtained by the CIA in the course of counterintelligence monitoring. The notifications also make note of a report provided to CIA officials about the communications. That report was provided to offices of some who were subjects of the pending whistleblower complaints. While counterintelligence monitoring is an important tool to catch spies and insider threats, when it touches on lawful Congressional communications about intelligence community whistleblowers, it raises serious concerns.
The notifications can be found here:
On April 14, 2014, Grassley wrote to CIA Director John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper seeking their declassification. Then on April 5, 2017, in the hope that the new Trump administration might be more responsive than the Obama administration, Grassley followed up with a letter to the CIA Director, Director of National Intelligence, CIA Inspector General and the Intelligence Community Inspector General. Grassley did not receive a response to either of those letters in writing nor in any other communication between Grassley’s office and the relevant agencies.
On October 15, 2018, Grassley wrote to the ICIG again pressing for declassification and release. The ICIG responded on October 29.