Congressional Oversight? Dianne Feinstein Says She's 'Not A High-Tech Techie' But Knows NSA Can't Abuse Surveillance

from the oh-really? dept

As the NSA and defenders of NSA surveillance are trying to minimize the damage from the latest leak, which revealed the details of the XKeyscore program, they’re bending over backwards to insist that this program is both limited and immune from abuse. We’ve already mentioned that the claims that it can’t be abused are laughable since there’s already a well-documented history of abuse. However, even more bizarre is the following quote from Senate Intelligence Committee boss, Senator Dianne Feinstein (a staunch defender of the surveillance programs):

Feinstein said, “I am not a high-tech techie, but I have been told that is not possible.”

Note that among Feinstein’s jobs is oversight of this program. Yet, what kind of “oversight” is it when she admits that she’s not qualified to understand the technology but “has been told” that such abuses are not possible? That doesn’t seem like oversight. That seems like asking the NSA “can this system be abused?” and the NSA saying “oh, no no no, not at all.” That’s not exactly oversight, now is it?

Filed Under: , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Congressional Oversight? Dianne Feinstein Says She's 'Not A High-Tech Techie' But Knows NSA Can't Abuse Surveillance”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Ninja (profile) says:

So we found a person who falls for the Nigerian Prince scam.

“You know, he told me the guy was a prince so I gave him all my belongings. I’m sure I will receive all the gazillion dollars he promised me.”

It’s amusing and depressing to see how these people ignore how the mindless defense of an illegal and failed scheme makes them look like complete dumb-asses.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Don’t be absurd. For something as simple as screwing in a lightbulb there would easily be bipartisain support for a budget that allocated 3.5 million dollars in a no-bid contract for a private firm to screw in 1500 light bulbs per-year followed quickly by bipartisain support for a budget that allocated an additional 7 million dollars in a no-bid contract for a private firm to determine the number of light bulbs that actually need to be screwed in per year.

drkkgt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Buy stock of light bulb company via the subsidiary of their shell company. Promote said Company’s light bulbs as brighter thus allowing for better security from terrorists and child molesters. Also fight for local light bulb installer union and how the LED consortium is trying to take away good American jobs,
Then after all the lobbying, fighting, delaying tactics, and closed door trade agreements are done: we pay 16.63 million for a guy with a top secret security clearance to come in and screw in a light bulb.

Capt ICE Enforcer says:

Question of the day.

Maybe if she were allowed to review those leaked document she could do the oversight. But unfortunately they are classified and would pose GRAVE DANGER to the CHILDREN. She has made the right choice to rmain an idiot. Also NSA analis please fix my spelling/grammer errors before this post reaches the net. Thanks.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The statements actually belie intelligence. This is what people that vote for people like Feinstein love to hear. If their candidate actually admitted that they understood the tech they’d be a ‘nerd’ or a ‘techie’ and those people are bad. Of course she knows it can be abused she’d just never actually say it.

DannyB (profile) says:

Dianne Feinstein is correct

The NSA simply cannot abuse surveillance. It simply is not possible in a technical or legal sense.

The definition of ‘abuse’ is a classified secret, but the American people should be assured that the NSA will operate within and honor that secret definition of ‘abuse’.

The secret definition of ‘abuse’ can be secretly changed without secret notice.

Anonymous Coward says:

there is only one possible solution for her and that is to be removed from office. what would a boss say, any boss, if the person working for him said he couldn’t do the job, but someone else had told him how to do it and that it would be ‘OK’? straight out the door, exactly what should happen here.

the biggest problem with politics and perhaps US politics in particular is that there is too much by far of this ‘good speech’ crap, old mates club and everything you can think of except being ‘the right person for the job’. consider the amount of ‘clout’ this woman has and then to see she doesn’t know anything about the very thing that has been/is being used to spy on just about the whole world. that is so scary, it’s untrue! she may not know much about it, but she knows enough to deny what it can do, knowing full well that she is spouting nothing but lies! she needs to go and quick!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

there is only one possible solution for her and that is to be removed from office. what would a boss say, any boss, if the person working for him said he couldn’t do the job, but someone else had told him how to do it and that it would be ‘OK’? straight out the door, exactly what should happen here.

So who are you going to replace her with, Wyden? He’s a lawyer. Wyden chairs energy and natural resources but has no particular training in those fields. His state is a big producer of lumber and forest products, hence his interest. Before you sputter in indignation, why don’t you review the credentials of all of the committee chairs and find ONE chair with specific training. And then consider that the head of the railroads doesn’t know how to run a locomotive.

mcinsand (profile) says:

Re: Re: to get less-unqualified replacements

If we want a far better House and Senate than we have now, we merely have to grab people at random off the street. I’m serious. If we had a draft, then we would no longer be selectively accumulating the most self-serving and least qualified (but best self-marketing) slice of our populace.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: to get less-unqualified replacements

I’ve long been partial to this idea (on the basis that desire for office should be disqualification for office). But a friend came up with an objection that I could never quite answer…

if politicians are drafted, then the natural result will be that the lower-level functionaries will become the real power, simply by virtue of the fact that they will stick around while the politicians come and go.

Once lower-level functionaries are the real power, you have a defacto hidden government and less transparency and accountability than we have even now.

stockholderssyndrome says:

Re: Re: Re:2 to get less-unqualified replacements

each of the lower-level functionaries leaders are appointed but the basic foundation is still there … our problem is they seem to forget the honor that’s bestowed on them and that the Constitution is the highest law of the land . and most of our elected officials are career politicians and former agents .. they and we are incapable of thinking outside the box for the most part. .. remember these words absolute power corrupts absolutely.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 to get less-unqualified replacements

No, the bureucrates that don’t rotate over whom you call low-level are the ones who run things and have the power, they do the bidding of the industry groups or sometimes the elected officials, but only if they choose to. The NSA would be a good example to see how it works.

If you think a bit, the only difference between the draft version and the current version is how the people who rotate are selected. They still rotate, and the problem you mention doesn’t change.

Jasmine Charter (user link) says:

I ain't a smart woman...

So, because of idiotic bimbo says it’s ok… it’s ok?!

How do these people get elected?! And even more curious is how such a complete techno-moron gets put on this sort of committee, which by it’s very definition requires a member to be somewhat of a “high-tech techie”.

How about we start requiring members of certain committees to take tests to demonstrate their ability to actually be useful before being allowed on a committee.

If it’s a committee on agriculture, then they should have SOME agricultural experience. If it’s a committee that deals with high tech issues, then they should have more knowledge about computers than just knowing where the on switch is.


TheLastCzarnian (profile) says:

Re: Lets be real

This is true. However, you have at least several hundred, if not several thousand employees all trained in security who are able to break any system in the world… except their own. The system that they made.
And we’re just supposed to swallow that, because the lunatic fringe said so. No rational or technical reason.

Spaceman Spiff (profile) says:

Time to retire Dianne...

Feinstein was a maverick who helped break the “glass ceiling” when she was first elected. Unfortunately, she is now part of that ceiling… πŸ™ Dianne, it is time you retired, or get retired by your constituents – you don’t understand the new tech modus, and if you don’t, you cannot possibly represent your constituents properly. Hopefully, they will realize, and act upon that.

Anonymous Coward says:

The more comes out on this mess, the more pissed I get. The whole thing is a sham. From start to finish there is no oversight, there is no legality outside the changing of words to mean what they aren’t, and with oversight from idiots like this you can be assured no ability to actually oversee anything.

No wonder out government is in the mess it’s in. It’s the rich leading the rich and no one else has a clue.

Kurt says:

A driver is stuck in a traffic jam on the highway. Nothing is moving.

Suddenly, a man knocks on the window. The driver rolls down the
window and asks, “What’s going on?”

“Terrorists have kidnapped Congress, and are asking for a $10
million dollar ransom. Otherwise, they are going to douse them all
in gasoline and set them on fire. We are going from car to car,
taking up a collection.”

“How much is everyone giving, on average?” the driver asks.

The man replies, “About a gallon.”

Anonymous Coward says:

If she knows anything about the field she administers has nothing to do with competence in politics and I know that the writer knows that too.

Just attacking the poor fool in the committee is pretty worthless since it is a systemic problem with no easy solution.

A politician is a person who is either arrogant and stupid or has no specific opinion on most issues. They are elected based on their ability to speak and endear the old media and because of donations. When they are in office the people who donated is lobbying to get their moneys worth.

Last I heard, politicians often do not look at laws because they haven’t got the time. Instead, they read every lobby-opinion or has people finding the most important to read through. By doing that, they are assuring they know the arguments for or against a law, which in a mudthrowing-debate is more valuable. After that they look up who donated the most and what opinion they had on this law, they determine their stand on that issue.

That system somewhat works when there are more or less equal and opposite opinions among those lobbying, but it is completely bullocks in terms of copyright and any kind of security spending.

Copyright is made into a clusterf** of companies wanting harder laws and most of them have no upper limit on how extreme, while mostly non-donating groups are making up the opposition. Today tech industry has entered the battle on the small groups side and that is the only reason anything can ever change in that debate among politicians…

Security spending is a problem because of the “better safe than sorry”-mentality in politics. Look at what happened in Benghazi and how Obama was grilled there! That is a sign of the real problem.
Add to that bias, a 100 % lack of real opposing views and open debate on secret service spending and you have every red alert of a democratically estranged group with a lack of real oversight since no politicians dare challenge the better safe than sorry doctrine and an eternal downpour of spending based on lobbying activity.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Compare and contrast.

Is this like the we torture only terrorists thing?

We don’t access it until there’s something to be discovered. Once we discover something significant that justifies our accessing it.

Because we magically detect when there’s significant information with our magic significant information detector.

Just like our magic terrorist detector which can determine a terrorist without due process.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop Β»

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...