In a stunning public accusation Tuesday, the chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee said the CIA snooped through congressional computers and is trying to intimidate Congress into backing off a report looking into charges of torture during terrorist-linked interrogations.
The accusation by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, escalated what had been a simmering dispute into a full-blown constitutional battle.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle backed Mrs. Feinstein and said that having an executive agency — the CIA in particular — breaking into congressional computers is a major breach of trust and could result in criminal charges.
The accusations had shades of Cold War intrigue, and many Republicans rallied to Mrs. Feinstein’s defense, saying major separation-of-powers issues were at stake in the CIA’s snooping.
The White House, meanwhile, tried to duck questions about the matter by saying it would await an internal CIA auditor’s report.
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