Rachel Maddow: CIA spying on Congress 'is death of the Republic stuff'
Rachel Maddow 030514 [MSNBC]

A dispute between the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Senate Intelligence Committee may have spilled into dangerous territory, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said on Wednesday, following a New York Times report that agency operatives gained access to the computers being used by lawmakers to investigate the agency.

"This is kind of death of the Republic kind of stuff," Maddow said. "The whole separation of powers thing almost pales in comparison to the seriousness of the allegation that a nation's own spy services have been turned against its' own government. Particularly, where that government is supposed to be overseeing the spy services."

The Times reported that the allegations exacerbated an ongoing rift between the agency and the committee over the CIA's now-defunct interrogation program, which included waterboarding and other techniques in secret prisons located outside the U.S. Agency officials reportedly grew concerned that committee members had gained unauthorized access to CIA documents in the course of compiling the report, which is reportedly more than 6,000 pages long and highly critical of the agency. The program was shut down by President Barack Obama not long after he took office.

McClatchy Newspapers also reported that the agency's inspector general has asked the Justice Department to open its own criminal investigation into the matter.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-UT) hinted at the allegation in a letter to President Barack Obama, Maddow said, alluding to "unprecedented action" taken by the CIA against the committee.

"I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee's oversight responsibilities and for our democracy," Udall wrote.

CIA Director John Brennan issued a statement ripping "spurious allegations" against the agency, without mentioning Udall by name, and saying he 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."

Times reporter Mark Mazetti told Maddow that intelligence officials are calling the rift unprecedented.

"What you had for years was a dispute between the CIA and the Intelligence Committee over, basically, the history," he said. "Who writes the history of this extraordinarily controversial program that took place during the [George W.] Bush administration. But what we've seen is, it's really escalated from there, and it's gone to this issue of separation of powers, congressional oversight, how independent is Congress in overseeing intelligence agencies."

Watch Maddow's report and interview with Mazetti, as aired on MSNBC on Wednesday, below.