WASHINGTON -- Central Intelligence Agency’s Inspector General David Buckley is leaving the agency at the end of the month, marking the departure of a central figure in the CIA-Senate spying scandal.
Buckley will end his tenure as the agency's chief internal watchdog after four years in the position and 35 in the government.
Although the work of inspectors general is typically quiet and seldom publicly recognized, Buckley made waves earlier this year as a central figure in a contentious CIA-Senate spying spat, in which the agency accessed off-limits computers that Senate Intelligence Committee investigators used to construct their massive study on the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program.
Wading into the middle of the dispute, Buckley revealed in July that, despite agency claims to the contrary, five CIA employees had improperly accessed a walled-off hard drive that Senate Intelligence Committee investigators used to construct their study, and snooped through certain investigators’ emails.
Buckley’s July report sparked outrage among lawmakers and led to a CIA-commissioned accountability review board, which was tasked with considering punishment for the snooping employees.
However, that board isn’t expected to level any punishment, The New York Times revealed in December, even though Buckley's report made a clear conclusion that the employees' actions were improper. His investigation also found that the agency had filed a criminal referral that was based on inaccurate information, accusing Senate investigators of mishandling classified information.
Despite the timing, the agency said Buckley's departure had nothing to do with politics or his IG report.
“Mr. Buckley’s departure has been in the works for months,” said CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani. “After a long and distinguished career in public service, he is pursuing an opportunity in the private sector and there are no reasons for leaving other than that.”
Though inspectors general typically fly under the radar, in theory they are imperative elements of Washington. Tasked with independently monitoring their respective institutions, inspectors general are responsible for keeping an eye on some of the nation’s most clandestine and secretive organizations -- though their independence and effectiveness has often been questioned. Recently, McClatchy Newspapers indicated the IG often fails to serve as an adequate avenue for whistleblowers voicing concerns about their agencies.
Senate Intelligence Committee member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chaired the panel during the computer fight, lauded Buckley and stressed the importance of his successor.
“I believe it is critically important to have a strong, independent inspector general at the CIA due to the nature of the work done there, and Mr. Buckley filled the role admirably,” she said in a statement Monday. “I look forward to the president’s nomination of a new IG and swift consideration by the Intelligence Committee.”
Intelligence Committee member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) added, “In the wake of serious breaches of trust by CIA leadership over the past year, it is more important than ever that the administration appoint a strong, independent CIA Inspector General."
The White House also praised Buckley’s tenure.
“David has been a tremendous partner to colleagues throughout the Administration for the past four years, and we wish him well as he embarks on the next professional chapter,” said a White House official on Buckley’s departure.
Deputy Inspector General Christopher Sharpley will take on the acting IG position until a new CIA inspector general is nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.