The CIA’s internal watchdog will resign at the end of January, a departure that comes just months after his office found that the spy agency had hacked into computers used by Senate staffers to investigate its Bush-era “enhanced interrogation techniques,” the CIA said Monday.
David Buckley will leave the agency on Jan. 31 to “pursue an opportunity in the private sector,” the CIA said in a statement. Christopher Sharpley, the deputy CIA inspector general, will serve as acting inspector general upon Buckley’s departure.
The CIA indicated that Buckley’s resignation was both amicable and planned, although it comes after a particularly tumultuous year for the agency, which was enveloped in controversy leading up to the release last month of the Senate torture report.
“David has served the CIA and the American public as our inspector general for more than four years,” CIA Director John Brennan said in the statement. “Throughout his tenure, he has demonstrated independence, integrity, and sound judgment in promoting efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability at CIA.”
In July, Buckley’s office concluded that CIA employees had covertly hacked into computersused by Senate Intelligence Committee staffers to investigate the spy agency’s harsh interrogation methods deployed at foreign blacksites during the George W. Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Buckley’s findings represented a stunning rebuke of the CIA and Director Brennan, who had emphatically denied allegations lobbed by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein that the agency had accessed her panel’s computers in order to remove certain documents—a maneuver she described in a fiery floor speech as a likely violation of the Constitution.
“As far as the allegations of the CIA hacking into Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth.… That’s beyond the scope of reason,” Brennan said at the time.
But Buckley’s office concluded that some CIA employees had in fact attempted to retrieve certain agency documents without appropriate permission. The hacking was “inconsistent with the common understanding” brokered between the CIA and its Senate overseers, agency spokesman Dean Boyd said at the time.
Buckley’s investigation forced Brennan to apologize to Feinstein and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the panel’s top Republican. It also prompted Brennan to submit Buckley’s findings to an accountability board led by retired Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh. The board’s review is ongoing, but The New York Times, citing unnamed officials, reported last month that the panel would recommend against punishing any employees involved in the hacking scandal.
In a statement, Feinstein praised Buckley for serving with “distinction and intergrity” during his four years as CIA inspector general.
“It is critically important to have a strong, independent inspector general at the CIA due to the nature of the work done there, and Mr. Buckley filled the role admirably,” she added.
The still-secret document that prompted the CIA’s spying on its Senate overseers is known as the Panetta Review, an internal examination of the agency’s enhanced-interrogation program commissioned by former CIA Director Leon Panetta.
Several Democratic senators have said the Panetta Review corroborates their report, which stated that the use of extreme techniques such as waterboarding did not lead to valuable national security intelligence and that the CIA systematically misled the White House, Congress, and the public about the severity and importance of the program.
Former Sen. Mark Udall used his final speech from the Senate floor last month to allude to the Panetta Review’s conclusions. He called it a “smoking gun” that showed the CIA is continuing to be dishonest about its now-defunct enhanced-interrogation program, which several former agency officials strongly defended after the Senate torture report’s release in December.
UDALL: ‘THE C.I.A. IS LYING’
“The refusal to provide the full Panetta Review and the refusal to acknowledge facts detailed in both the committee study and the Panetta Review lead to one disturbing finding: Director Brennan and the CIA today are continuing to willfully provide inaccurate information and misrepresent the efficacy of torture,” Udall said. “In other words: The CIA is lying.”
Director Brennan has said the CIA has no plans to make any part of the Panetta Review public, as it was outside the bounds of the agreement brokered between Feinstein and Panetta when the intelligence panel began its investigation in 2009.
Buckley was nominated by President Obama to become inspector general and confirmed by the Senate on Sept. 29, 2010. He is leaving the CIA after nearly 35 years in the federal government, the agency said. It would not immediately disclose where in the private sector Buckley was headed.