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Americans Don't Think It's Okay For The CIA To Spy On Congressional Investigators

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DIANNE FEINSTEIN
Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, questions a witness during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 5, 2014. Photographer: Pete Marovich. | Bloomberg via Getty Images

Americans aren't especially happy about the idea of the CIA monitoring computers used by the congressional committees that oversee the agency, and few think it's acceptable for the CIA to withhold documents from a congressional investigation, a new HuffPostYouGov poll shows.

Forty-six percent of Americans in the poll said that they think it's unacceptable for the CIA to secretly access computers belonging to the congressional staff who monitor the intelligence agency. Only 32 percent of those polled said that it is acceptable. In fact, 40 percent of Americans think that the CIA secretly searching congressional computers is a crime. Thirty-one percent said it's not a crime, and 29 percent said they're not sure.

The poll was conducted in the wake of reports that the CIA had secretly searched Senate computers to try to find out how the Senate Intelligence Committee came to possess a document the CIA intended to remain secret. The committee was in the midst of compiling a report about the CIA's use of torture and harsh interrogation techniques.

Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, accused the CIA of trying to intimidate Congress and breaking the law by searching the computers used by committee staff. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) joined Feinstein in decrying the CIA.

Not only do few Americans think the CIA searching congressional computers is acceptable, but few think the CIA has a right to keep documents secret from Congress in the first place, the poll shows. Only 30 percent said the CIA has the right to keep documents secret from Congress and congressional staff who have a high-level security clearance if it thinks those documents are too sensitive to give to Congress. Forty-six percent said the CIA does not have that right.

After reports surfaced of the CIA searching congressional computers, the CIA responded by accusing Senate staffers of hacking into CIA computers to obtain the document in question in the first place. Americans in the poll tended to say that Congress secretly searching CIA computers as part of an investigation would be unacceptable rather than acceptable, by a margin of 41 to 34 percent.

But Americans seem to think it's more likely that the CIA searches congressional computers than the other way around. Forty-seven percent of Americans said it is very likely that the CIA sometimes secretly searches the computers of congressional staff who monitor the agency, while another 34 percent said it is somewhat likely.

By comparison, only 28 percent said it is very likely that members of Congress or their staff sometimes secretly search CIA computers, while 34 percent said that is somewhat likely.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted March 21-24 among 1,000 U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling.

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