A senior in Temple University's journalism program helped break a recent national story that has members of the U.S. Senate pointing fingers at the CIA.
Ali Watkins, currently a 22-year-old freelancer for McClatchy in Washington, D.C., received a tip from sources who came to trust her while making herself a presence on Capitol Hill, according to a posting by Temple's School of Media and Communication.
The Fleetwood, Berks County student is set to graduate from the university's School of Media and Communications in May.
The story she developed with two other bylined reporters ran March 4 and chronicled how the CIA Inspector General's Office asked the Justice Department to investigate allegations stemming from an as-yet-unreleased Senate Intelligence Committee report.
The report delves into the CIA's secret detention and interrogation program, the team of reporters said in a story that was widely circulated.
According to the story, the CIA monitored computers used by Senate aides to prepare the 6,300-page study that is reportedly "searing" in its indictment of the program, which included waterboarding and other interrogation methods. Such monitoring may violate an agreement between the committee and the agency and marks a breakdown in relations between the CIA and Congress, McClatchy reported.
"To me, this story stands as a testament to watchdog journalism," said Watkins, who was previously a Philadelphia Daily News intern.
The story heated up today as the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee said the CIA improperly searched a stand-alone computer network established just for Congress.
The network was dedicated to the investigation of allegations of CIA abuse in the Bush-era detention and interrogation program.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she had "grave concerns that the CIA's search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the U.S. Constitution," as she publicly aired an increasingly explosive dispute between Congress and the spy agency.
Determined to set the record straight amid various published reports and rampant speculation, Feinstein said the CIA searched the computer network in January and she had pressed CIA Director John Brennan about the agency's actions and the legal basis for its search.
Feinstein said she has not received any answers despite letters sent on Jan. 17 and Jan. 23. She also has sought an apology but said the CIA has been silent.
But CIA director John Brennan said today that the spy agency did not hack into computers that Senate staffers were using to investigate Bush-era interrogation programs.
Brennan says the CIA wants to put the post-9/11 detention and interrogation program behind it. That program is the subject of an investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The committee says the CIA improperly accessed Senate computers. Brennan says the CIA wouldn't do that.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.