Low-profile CIA lawyer in spotlight after Feinstein accuses unnamed GC of effort to intimidate

When U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein denounced the CIA yesterday, she also criticized one of its lawyers.

Feinstein said the CIA had searched computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to investigate harsh interrogation techniques and removed previously available documents from the system. And she accused the acting general counsel of “a potential effort to intimidate” staffers by asking the Justice Department to investigate whether the aides improperly obtained classified documents.

Feinstein didn’t name the acting general counsel, but the Associated Press and the New York Times have identified him as Robert Eatinger. According to AP, Eatinger “was little known outside a small cadre of highly specialized national security lawyers” and he “maintained a low profile in a legal career that has spanned two decades at the CIA and in the Navy.”

Apparently referring to Eatinger, Feinstein said he was previously the chief lawyer for the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Unit. “He is mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in our study,” Feinstein said. “And now this individual is sending a crimes report to the Department of Justice on the actions of the same congressional staff who researched and drafted a report—which details how CIA officers, including the acting general counsel himself, provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice about the program.”

Eatinger was one of two CIA lawyers who advised a CIA official that there was no legal requirement for the agency to keep 92 videotapes showing harsh interrogation techniques, according to AP and the Times. The CIA official destroyed the tapes, though Eatinger and the other lawyer “did not specifically sanction it,” the AP says. Eatinger was also criticized in 2009, along with several other CIA lawyers and officials, by U.S .District Judge Royce Lamberth. The judge said the group had provided erroneous information to the court that led to the dismissal of a suit against a CIA agent.

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