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Senate intel head: CIA searched panel's computers

The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Tuesday that the CIA searched the panel's computers and that the search may have violated the Constitution.

"The CIA just went and searched the committee's computers," California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in a lengthy speech on the Senate floor, calling the the matter a "defining moment" for the oversight of the Intelligence Committee.

"I have grave concerns that the CIA's search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied by the United States Constitution, including the speech and debate clause," she said. "It may have undermined the Constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activity or any other government function."

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein
Pete Marovich | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Sen. Dianne Feinstein

Feinstein added that the search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and an executive order that prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.

She said she has asked for an apology and an acknowledgment that the CIA's actions were wrong but that "I have received neither."

The inspector general of the CIA has turned the matter over to the Justice Department for investigation, Feinstein said.

(Read more: The CIA's Cold War gadgets… inspired by Bond)

The search came as the Intelligence Committee attempted to investigate the CIA's detention and interrogation practices that took place when current CIA Director John Brennan directed the program.

Feinstein says the committee obtained the review from the CIA because it was provided to them as part of a searchable database of documents. The CIA has alleged that the committee may have obtained that document illegally.

The California senator said she made the public accusations "reluctantly" but felt she must speak up amid "inaccurate" information about her panel and the intelligence community.

"Since January 15th, 2014, when I was informed of the CIA search of this committee's network, I've been trying to resolve this dispute in a discreet and respectful way," she said. "I have not commented in response to media requests for additional information on this matter, however the increasing amount of inaccurate information circulating now cannot be allowed to stand unanswered."

By Kasie Hunt of NBC News. Carrie Dann contributed to this report.

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