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TODAY   |  March 12, 2014

CIA director fires back amid new investigation

New questions about whether the CIA spied on Congress have arisen as a federal investigation is launched. NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell reports.

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>>> bitter war of words heating up between congress and the cia . did the intelligence agency actually spy on a congressional investigation? nbc 's andrea mitchell has the latest on the fallout from this. andrea, good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning. and there is a lot of fallout, matt. today, the justice department is investigating possible law breaking by both the senate and the cia after those explosive charges from senate democrats that the cia is spying on congress and a fierce rebuttal from the spy agency. now accuse the senators of taking secret cia documents. it's a clash right out of "homeland." an explosive washington battle, senate intelligence chair, dianne feinstein , on the senate floor, firing you the verbal equivalent of a predator drone against the cia .

>> the cia just went and searched the committee's computers.

>> reporter: target, john brennan , one of president obama 's closest advisers, career cia , now the cia director . but under president george w. bush , brennan helped run the cia 's secret prizeness and the so-called enhance interrogation techniques, widely viewed as torture. feinstein accused the cia of trying to hide evidence of those past abuses by hacking into senate intelligence committee computers, possibly to soft an critical report on brennan 's former policies.

>> i believe it is critical that the committee and the senate reaffirm our oversight role and our independence.

>> reporter: in an exclusive interview with nbc news, brennan denied interfering with the senate investigation.

>> we weren't trying to block anything. and the matter is being dealt with in the appropriate way.

>> reporter: brennan is also firing back at the senate . in this letter obtained by nbc news, he accuses senate staff of improperly taking sensitive documents from the cia . brennan wrote, "it is imperative to learn whether or not a breach or a vulnerability exists." a former cia chief of staff defends brennan . how account senate oversee the cia if the cia is going to be spyinging on the senate investigation?

>> the cia had no interest in spying on congress. what the cia wanted to ensure was that its computer system hadn't been breached.

>> reporter: president obama dismantled the bush era interrogation program but his confidence in brennan is very clear. so far, the white house is standing firmly by the cia chief. matt and savannah?

>> thanks, but not the last we will hear of that story, by a long shot.