WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The CIA's internal watchdog has begun a probe of whether members of the agency secretly monitored a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation of Bush-era detention and interrogation policies, according to media reports on Wednesday.
McClatchy Newspapers and the New York Times, quoting individuals with knowledge of the investigation, said the CIA's inspector general launched the probe after members of Congress complained that agency officers had improperly accessed the work of Intelligence Committee staffers.
According to individuals cited in the reports, CIA employees went so far as to gain access to computer networks the committee was using in its work for a report on the interrogation program, which many have equated with torture, conducted during President George W. Bush's administration.
Two sources contacted by Reuters confirmed the probe by the CIA inspector general.
McClatchy reported late on Wednesday that congressional aides took with them from the CIA an internal agency review of the Bush-era policies that at least one lawmaker has publicly said showed that CIA leaders misled the Intelligence Committee in disputing some of the committee's findings.
When the CIA confronted the committee on the issue, staff members concluded the spy agency had been monitoring computers they had been using in a high-security research room at the CIA campus, the report said.
The Senate committee's draft report, nearly 6,000 pages long, concludes there is little evidence the "enhanced interrogation techniques" produced counter-terrorism breakthroughs.
The panel's Republican minority disputes those findings. The report itself remains highly classified and it is unclear whether portions of it will ever be made public.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said in a statement that "if, as alleged in the media, CIA accessed without permission or authority a computer network dedicated for use by a Senate committee, it would be an extremely serious matter."
The Michigan Democrat said such activity, if true, "would impede Congress' ability to carry out its constitutional oversight responsibilities and could violate federal law."
CIA Director John Brennan said he was "deeply dismayed that some members of the Senate have decided to make spurious allegations about CIA actions that are wholly unsupported by the facts.
"I am very confident that the appropriate authorities reviewing this matter will determine where wrongdoing, if any, occurred in either the Executive Branch or Legislative Branch," Brennan said in a statement.
"Until then, I would encourage others to refrain from outbursts that do a disservice to the important relationship that needs to be maintained between intelligence officials and Congressional overseers."
A CIA spokesman declined to elaborate beyond Brennan's statement.
(Reporting by Peter Cooney and Mark Hosenball. Editing by Ken Wills)