By Martin Matishak and Kristina Wong - 07/31/14 08:12 PM EDT
THE TOPLINE: The CIA admitted Thursday that it had spied on Senate staffers putting together a report on “enhanced interrogation” techniques.
CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said a probe by the agency’s inspector general concluded “that some CIA employees acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding” between the clandestine service and the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The admission that CIA agents hacked Senate staffers’ computers directly contradicted Brennan’s earlier denials and brought quick condemnation.
Two lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee called for Brennan to step down.
“This grave misconduct not only is illegal, but it violates the U.S. Constitution’s requirement of separation of powers,” Sen. Mark UdallMark UdallEnergy issues roil race for Senate Unable to ban Internet gambling, lawmakers try for moratorium Two vulnerable senators lack challengers for 2016 MORE (D-Colo.) said in a statement. “These offenses, along with other errors in judgment by some at the CIA, demonstrate a tremendous failure of leadership, and there must be consequences.”
Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin HeinrichCarter pledges probe of sex assault testimony Week ahead: Rival encryption efforts clash on Capitol Hill Encryption commission bill picks up more backers MORE (D-N.M.) said “it would probably be better for the agency, frankly, if he step aside.”
The White House backed its top spy, with press secretary Josh Earnest insisting that the spying had “absolutely not” damaged his standing.
Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenFeds list schools that sought exemption from discrimination statute IRS: Annual unpaid tax liability was 8B Overnight Cybersecurity: Fight over feds' hacking powers moves to Congress MORE (D-Ore.), a member of the Intelligence panel, and Sen. Patrick Leahy both called for Brennan to publicly apologize and explain the agency’s actions, but did not call for him to resign.
WH CHIDES ISRAEL: The White House blamed Israel Thursday for the shelling of a UN school in Gaza, calling the incident "totally unacceptable and totally indefensible."
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said "all evidence points to Israeli artillery as the cause" of the deaths of 16 people at the school, which had been housing thousands of homeless Palestinians.
Earnest said Israel "can and should do more to protect the lives of innocent civilians."
The Pentagon echoed that message Thursday, calling on Israel to do more to reduce civilian casualties in the conflict with Hamas.
"The Israelis have very high and public standards for the precautions that they take to protect civilian lives," said Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren.
"Civilians casualties in Gaza have been too high, and it's become clear that the Israelis have to do more to live up to their very high and public standards for protecting civilian lives," he said.
The pressure from the U.S. comes a day after the Pentagon announced the delivery of munitions to Israeli forces.
Among the weapons being delivered are 120mm tank rounds and 40mm illumination rounds. The weapons are coming from a "war reserve" the U.S. keeps in Israel.
"We have a longstanding security cooperation agreement with Israel, part of that agreement is to provide munitions," Warren said.
Warren said there was no condition placed upon the munitions that were approved for delivery.
He said the munitions "could be used in training, they could be used in operations — they could be used for anything."
But, he made clear, "We want them to do more to live up to their high standards of reducing civilian casualties," he said.
Israel and Hamas are now locked in the fourth week of a military conflict that began on July 8.
Gaza officials say at least 1,372 Palestinians, many of them civilians, have been killed and nearly 7,000 wounded since the fighting began.
So far, 56 Israeli soldiers have been killed, and more than 400 wounded, as well as three civilians, according to the Associated Press.
OBAMA WON’T BUDGE ON UKRAINE ARMS: Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the Obama administration still would not provide lethal weapons to Ukraine’s military forces.
“In terms of ratcheting up the type of aid, the president didn’t come out for that, no,” Durbin said after a White House meeting on foreign policy with President Obama.
Cornyn described the meeting as an “overview” of trouble spots around the globe, such as, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
A growing number of Senate Democrats and Republicans believe the White House should supply Kiev with lethal assistance in the face of ongoing Russian aggression.
The president has ruled out providing military aid, despite a request submitted earlier this week by Ukraine’s defense minister.
“The belief the president expressed was that we can support the legitimate Ukrainian national forces there and they can overcome the rebellion and opposition with the current military force,” Durbin told reporters.
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