Civil Libertarians to Dianne Feinstein: We Told You So

The moment when Dianne Feinstein should have called for a comprehensive review of NSA’s programs was no later than August 18, when she admitted the Senate Intelligence Committee doesn’t get briefed on violations that occur under Executive Order 12333, even though they constitute the bulk of violations.

The committee does not receive the same number of official reports on other NSA surveillance activities directed abroad that are conducted pursuant to legal authorities outside of FISA (specifically Executive Order 12333), but I intend to add to the committee’s focus on those activities.

The committee has been notified—and has held briefings and hearings—in cases where there have been significant FISA compliance issues. In all such cases, the incidents have been addressed by ending or adapting the activity.


I believe, however, that the committee can and should do more to independently verify that NSA’s operations are appropriate, and its reports of compliance incidents are accurate. This should include more routine trips to NSA by committee staff and committee hearings at which all compliance issues can be fully discussed.

While at the time she bought the NSA’s roamer myth, it was already clear the NSA was spying on US persons via its bulk collection “overseas,” including via some of the more troubling violations. She should have further gotten concerned when both Keith Alexander and James Clapper dodged questions about upstream violations. But then, she was too busy reading factually inaccurate statements about the same collections.

Back in the day, though, making sure the NSA wasn’t using Article II to evade oversight used to be one of her chief concerns.

Nevertheless, it took the disclosures of spying on Angela Merkel — and, no doubt, the embarrassment of her party’s President, and perhaps growing support for a real investigation — to really rile her up.

It is abundantly clear that a total review of all intelligence programs is necessary so that members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are fully informed as to what is actually being carried out by the intelligence community.

Unlike NSA’s collection of phone records under a court order, it is clear to me that certain surveillance activities have been in effect for more than a decade and that the Senate Intelligence Committee was not satisfactorily informed. Therefore our oversight needs to be strengthened and increased.

With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of U.S. allies—including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany—let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed.

Unless the United States is engaged in hostilities against a country or there is an emergency need for this type of surveillance, I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers. The president should be required to approve any collection of this sort.

It is my understanding that President Obama was not aware Chancellor Merkel’s communications were being collected since 2002. That is a big problem.

The White House has informed me that collection on our allies will not continue, which I support. But as far as I’m concerned, Congress needs to know exactly what our intelligence community is doing. To that end, the committee will initiate a major review into all intelligence collection programs. [my emphasis]

I welcome this review — by all accounts the torture review conducted under her supervision is more thorough than anything else we’ve seen.

But … ah, the torture review.

There’s one other reason DiFi should have been quicker to respond to questions Edward Snowden — whom she called a traitor — raised.

In December she finished a 6,000 page report, one key finding of which was that the CIA lied to her community.

Why did she think NSA would be any different?

25 replies
  1. PJ Evans says:

    Has she paid attention to anything they’ve done in the last five years?
    Even at SFGate people are expressing their negative opinions of her work.

  2. edge says:

    Unless the United States is engaged in hostilities against a country or there is an emergency need for this type of surveillance, I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers.

    Is the United States engaged in hostilities against it’s own citizens?

  3. joanneleon says:

    My initial reaction is that the plan right now is 1) stall stall stall any meaningful reform legislation and 2) come up with a good reason why the Senate will refuse to pick up NSA reform legislation passed in the House and have a reason to tell citizens about and tell voters about until the Senate can finagle some faux reform legislation.

    My sense is that 1) Feinstein doesn’t show the kind of affection for military intelligence that she shows for other kinds of intelligence and she’s been over and above in her defenses of other kinds of intelligence; 2) Feinstein, Durbin, Reid, Pelosi, while they have seemed decent on some issues in the past are completely compromised right now and present no push back to Obama at all. They behave much more like executive branch representatives than legislative branch representatives or representatives of the people.

    And then we’ve got the whole legacy thing to contend with, particularly when dealing with Senators (or generals, or presidents) who are at the end of their careers.

    A thorough review is definitely necessary but she is the Last person who should be doing it.

  4. joanneleon says:

    She should resign her chair immediately, as should Rogers. I don’t mean this as hyperbole. I’m serious.

  5. Nigel says:

    So, the rest of the world’s population is fair game for snooping, but when it comes to the actual leaders…

    “…as far as I’m concerned, Congress needs to know exactly what our intelligence community is doing…”

    La Feinstein is apparently an irony free zone.

  6. Copyright ©PeasantParty says:

    Alexander and Clapper are part of the Intelligence Community?

    Why are they still in Military Uniform?

    What about Copyright and Trademark if everything in print, voice, or location no longer belongs to the originator?

    How much longer can DiFi, Obama, and FISA courts keep up this play acting?

  7. Snoopdido says:

    So Senator Rip Van Feinstein finally awakens from her Senate Select Committee on Intelligence sleep and is shocked to discover that nobody told her that about the snooping of world leaders going on.

    And by the way Diane, you snore!

  8. liberalrob says:

    @PJ Evans: Know-Nothingism. Clearly she imagines herself as one of the Illuminati, privy to knowledge that would blast the brains of lesser mortals.

  9. PeasantParty © says:

    I have a question in to someone that should know for sure. I want to know if the Secret Law, Secret Court, Secret Govt via all these new Patriot Act, NDAA, NSA laws have allowed the Military to operate openly or in secret on US soil and it’s citizens.

    Again, I am trying to follow all these NSA court cases, but not much is allowed to escape to public view.

    Oh, and I am now a copyright entity. My words still belong to me. I guess Congress only supports Freedom of Speech when it involves vast amount of Corporatism.

    PeasantParty ©

  10. PeasantParty © says:

    @edge: Evidently. I want answers on the Military conducting these programs on US citizens. If there is a change in the laws, I want to see it.

    I want to see it, read it.
    I want to know who sponsored it.
    I want to see who voted for it.
    I want to see which appropriation committee members felt our tax dollars should pay for it.

    It is time for American citizens to take names, mark it up, and decide the Constitutionality of these programs because our CONGRESS has FAILED to do so!

  11. PeasantParty © says:

    Sensenbrenner has his bill ready this evening to curb the NSA. It is named….

    “The USA Freedom Act”

  12. TomVet says:

    @PeasantParty ©: You raise very important questions with which I wholeheartedly agree.

    Over at Common Dreams (where I see Marcy’s “Lying Keith” column has made an appearance) under the headline “If Obama Didn’t Know About Merkel Spying, Who Was It For?” Juan Cole raises a similar concern:

    Among the founding principles of the United States was “no taxation without representation.” But the NSA appears to be a secret kingdom that appropriates our money with no oversight or accountability. We didn’t elect it, and if it doesn’t let our chosen representatives know what it is up to, than it is taxing us without giving us any representation. It is a tyrant. It is an ominous homunculus within the body politic.

    Someone in that august body known as Congress needs to seriously start addressing this and reporting back to us in a very public forum.

  13. phred says:

    DiFi’s indignation is more than a little difficult to swallow.

    I suspect the current dust-up might adversely affect her household’s portfolio, or worse make some of her dinner engagements abroad a trifle uncomfortable. There is zero chance that she actually has any scruples about spying willy nilly on people, given the years she has spent enabling and enhancing such capabilities…

  14. Don Bacon says:

    Better late than never.
    from The Cable:
    “We’re really screwed now,” one NSA official told The Cable. “You know things are bad when the few friends you’ve got disappear without a trace in the dead of night and leave no forwarding address.”

  15. PeasantParty © says:

    @TomVet: Thank You! I am seriously pissed that General Alexander all dressed in his stars on epilets at every public appearance is charged with spying on American Citizens. He is allowed to do these OPs on US soil, on US citizens without warrant or cause. Exactly when and by whom does he as an ACTIVE member of the Military have/acquire the ability to do this Legally?

    I am serious. I’m not playing crazy or funny Peasant tonight, nor the village idiot. I am being a very concerned citizen!

  16. PeasantParty © says:

    @PeasantParty ©: Oops. I left out the fact that DiFi and other Senators keep referring to Alexander and Clapper programs as the US Intelligence Agencies. Both of those characters are still active members of the military. Both of them are heads of their agencies doing what NSA does.

    Why is the MILITARY allowed to do this?

  17. PJ Evans says:

    @PeasantParty ©:
    I think it was mentioned here recently that NSA is part of DOD – but I agree that it shouldn’t be run by active military, and especially not when it’s doing very-much-nonmilitary spying on US citizens in the US.

  18. lefty665 says:

    @PJ Evans: Traditionally NSA has had a transient military Director and a career civilian Deputy Director. CIA had civilian Directors and some military staff. There’s some logic to that. It keeps everybody moving and reduces the chances of breeding another J. Edgar while maintaining continuity. It also balances military and civilian within and across the intelligence community.

    They broke the mold when Hayden went from NSA to CIA. They further screwed up when Alexander got a second tour as DIRNSA. He has been there far too long (longer than any other DIRNSA), along with his hand picked civilian deputy. The problems are not so much that the Director is wearing stars as with presidents (Duhbya and BO) who have knowingly screwed things up. Aka malfeasance.

  19. Don Bacon says:

    All these people, military and civilian, including Obama, took an oath of office to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. They did not take an oath to protect people.

  20. ess emm says:

    Now that NSA spying has been directly tied to the White House things are going to break loose. DiFi has run for cover. DN I Clapper is toast, and so is Alexander.

    It’s depressing, but spying on ordinary Americans isn’t enough to spark change. It has to directly have an adverse impact on the President

  21. Jeff Kaye says:

    @joanneleon: Feinstein and others you mention are totally compromised. The leadership of the oversight communities were targeted by the IC from their inception. Remember, for instance, people like George Tenet used to work for the intelligence committees. The IC leadership tries to make it easier by honing down the briefings to just the leading intel committee members. In fact, this has been a fight from the beginning. That would be common knowledge if the Pike Report had been fully released.

    Oversight has been a joke all along. I don’t think the US public puts an ounce of trust in such a charade anymore.

  22. edge says:


    A couple of thoughts on the Baker paper:
    1) His statistics comparing European surveillance orders per capita with US numbers is extremely manipulative. He makes it look like Europeans are more likely to be surveilled than Americans because of the number of orders per capita. He doesn’t point out that a single US order can suck up records of a hundred million Americans. We know that the chance of being surveilled in America is pretty darn close to 100%.
    2) I find it interesting that he wants Congress to tie the hands of negotiators who might make concessions regarding our foreign surveillance powers. It’s the opposite of the Fast Track authority the administration wants for its trade negotiators.

    He does make a good point about the problem of having an independent public advocate not be beholden to those who grant him clearance.

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