Five Reactions To Dianne Feinstein Finally Finding Something About The NSA To Get Angry About

from the friends-in-high-places dept

Dianne Feinstein, the NSA’s biggest defender in the Senate (which is ridiculous since she’s also in charge of “oversight”) has finally had enough. It’s not because she finally understands how crazy it is that the NSA is spying on every American, including all of her constituents in California. It’s not because she finally realized that the NSA specifically avoided letting her know about their widespread abuses. No, it’s because she just found out that the NSA also spies on important people, like political leaders around the globe. It seems that has finally ticked off Feinstein, who has released a scathing statement about the latest revelations:

“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.

There are so many different possible reactions to this. Let’s go to list form to go through a few:

  1. Most people seem a hell of a lot less concerned about spying on political leaders than the public. After all, you kind of expect espionage to target foreign leaders. It seems incredibly elitist for Feinstein to show concern about spying on political leaders, and not the public. It shows how she views the public as opposed to people on her level of political power. One of them doesn’t matter. The other gets privacy.
  2. For all the bluster and anger from Feinstein about this, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s mandate is only about intelligence activities that touch on US persons, so it’s not even clear that she has any power over their activities strictly in foreign countries targeting foreign individuals. Why she seems to have expected the NSA to let her know about that when the NSA itself has been pretty explicit that avoids telling Congress about anything it can reasonably avoid telling them.
  3. Feinstein has referred to Ed Snowden’s leak as “an act of treason.” Now that they’ve revealed something that she believes is improper and deserving of much greater scrutiny, is she willing to revisit that statement?
  4. Given that Feinstein has been angrily banging the drum for months about how her oversight of the intelligence community shows that everything’s great, and there’s no risk of rogue activity — yet now she’s finally admitting that perhaps the oversight isn’t particularly comprehensive, is she willing to admit that her earlier statements are reasonably considered hogwash and discredited? She even says in her statement: “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.” And yet she’s been claiming that oversight has been more than enough for years?
  5. The cynical viewpoint: Feinstein knows the USA Freedom Act is coming out Tuesday, and that it has tremendous political momentum. Sooner or later she was going to have to admit that NSA surveillance was going to be curbed. Did she just happen to choose this latest bit of news for a bit of political theater to join the “time to fix the NSA” crowd?

There are plenty of other things that could be added to the list, but the whole situation seems fairly ridiculous considering about whom we’re talking.

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Comments on “Five Reactions To Dianne Feinstein Finally Finding Something About The NSA To Get Angry About”

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56 Comments
Rikuo (profile) says:

I was amazed last week when I browsed the newspapers at my workplace. The Irish Independent had a front page article about how Merkel was angry about her phone being wiretapped. No mention on the front page about Snowden, nothing about why a nation’s leader’s phone being tapped is front page news but the populace at large aren’t talked about. I didn’t buy the paper to see if the story continued on the inside mentioned any more relevant points.
Other than that one front page, I haven’t seen a single Irish newspaper have any NSA stories on the front page. Granted, I don’t buy them, I don’t see the stories on the inside, but surely there should be some mention of the world’s allegedly most powerful nation spying on everyone on the front page on a semi-regular basis.

That One Guy (profile) says:

I can’t help but think it’s the first point that’s really causing such a reaction from her. Spying on the peons is one thing, but spying on those in power? That’s just not done you know. /s

Suddenly realizing that if they were willing to tap the communications of someone that high up in another country, that meant there was nothing to stop them from tapping her communications… I imagine that was quite the unpleasant shock there.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I think maybe she didn’t know he was spying on Merkel, Sarkozy etc.

Merkel scandal shows if a telephone number can be matched to a person and the metadata used to tap her friends. So the ‘metadata isn’t data’ argument falls apart. The idea that a telephone number is somehow an ‘anonymous’ thing (Obama) that the NSA can’t match to the name, also gone.

But yes, I agree with your main point. I think underlying it, is the realization that there’s a file on her in the NSA and her selectors are right there waiting to be queried, and there’s zero reason why she’s been tracked for 6 years, and no protection stopping them tacking a look.

Myself I’m more concerned that there is a file on every upcoming politician, in the NSA database. It’s easier to stop people climbing the political ladder than knocking them off once they’re in power.

Anonymous Coward says:

Obama sez Feinstein is wrong

?Official: Feinstein’s Statement On Intel Collection Not Accurate?, Talking Points Memon, Oct 29, 2013

A senior administration official told TPM Monday that Senate Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein’s statement that the United States would no longer collect intelligence on U.S. allies was not accurate.

Earlier in the day, Feinstein said?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: BBC confirms Feinstein wrong [was Obama sez Feinstein is wrong]

(Sorry: ? “]” key is right next to “Enter” key. My finger slipped.)

?

?US spying: Senate intelligence committee orders review?, BBC, 29 Oct 2013

?.?.?.?.

Senator Feinstein said the White House had told her that all surveillance of leaders of countries friendly to the US would stop.

However, the BBC’s North America editor Mark Mardell says a senior administration official has told the BBC this is not accurate – and that while there have been individual changes – there have not been policy changes, such as terminating intelligence gathering aimed at allies.

?.?.?.?.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Obama sez Feinstein is wrong

I though[t] Obama didn’t know what was going on?

Just ran across this story?

?White House won’t confirm report that Obama didn’t know about NSA leader surveillance?, by Jennifer Epstein, Politico, Oct 28, 2013

White House press secretary Jay Carney declined Monday to confirm a report suggesting that the President Obama was not aware of the NSA’s surveillance of foreign leaders?

Hans says:

Responsibility

“For all the bluster and anger from Feinstein about this, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s mandate is only about intelligence activities that touch on US persons, so it’s not even clear that she has any power over their activities strictly in foreign countries targeting foreign individuals.”

The point is, since this is out of her committee’s mandate, she can’t be blamed, so now she can be outraged.

Anonymous Coward says:

she’s trying to get in on the act so that she can continue to work in favor of the spying, but from the inside. by that i mean, when the changes come, she will be one of those changing word meanings, secret interpretations etc so as to suit what she wants the NSA and others to be able to do.
if it’s nothing of the sort, then it’s simply a self-interested view because she expects to have privacy but no one else is worthy. perhaps she needs reminding at the next election who votes people into the various positions to start with, even if they dont give them their final or supplementary jobs!

Anonymous Coward says:

Dear STUPID Congress...

We the people…

Are more important than anyone else. Get your priorities straight. Those you you whom have not figured out that the halls of congress are filled with people whom think themselves kings and queens, are invited to exercise thine 2nd amendment rights to affix thine barrel of a firearm against their temples and lastly, squeeze thy trigger.

RyanNerd (profile) says:

Five stupidities for Sen DiFi

1) During her six years as MILCON leader Senator Feinstein had a conflict of interest due to her husband Richard C. Blum?s ownership of two major defense contractors, who were awarded billions of dollars for military construction projects that were approved by Senator Feinstein.
2) After Feinstein?s unsuccessful gubernatorial race in 1990, she was fined $190,000 for failure to properly report campaign contributions.
3) The National Association of Mining Districts voiced suspicions about continued back-room favoritism for Catellus (a gold mining company), and as noted by the San Francisco Chronicle, Catellus has given $100,000 in political contributions to Senator Feinstein over the past four years.?
4) DiFi introduced a gun bill that would set out to ban the sale of what she has termed ?assault weapons,? and ammunition clips capable of holding a large number of rounds of ammo. There is only one problem with the bill in that the bill exempts government officials and other officials.
5) DiFi charged with holding the intelligence establishment to account has said the NSA mass collection of phone records is ?not surveillance?

So there are two possibilities here:
1 – DiFi is morally corrupt working in her own self interest.
2 – DiFi is a heavy drug user and actually believes her own bull shit.

I go for the first which would make her the poster child of the liberal left hypocrisy

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Five stupidities for Sen DiFi

I go for the first which would make her the poster child of the liberal/conservative left/right hypocrisy’

Try not to fall for that one, both sides are more than staffed by hypocrites, if you want to blame a group, blame politicians as a whole, as acting like such actions are a ‘left/right, liberal/conservative’ problem just gives the other side a pass when they do the same thing.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Five stupidities for Sen DiFi

@RyanNerd, please can you clarify what policies you count under left and right wing? It’s confusing when the Right does it and it’s fine, but when the Libs do it the Apocalypse is nigh.

I’m serious. And I’m sick of people declaring that just because the Republicans have pretty much purged themselves of dissenters left of WTF?!!, the Democrats have done the same with those on the right of their political platform. As it happens, there’s more of a spectrum in the Democrats than there is in the GOP, which is basically Fifty Shades of Right.

Yes, I said that there is such a thing as a right wing Dem. They’re known as Blue Dogs.

That said, I’m a Pirate.

Trails (profile) says:

Re: Five stupidities for Sen DiFi

Since when is overbearing gov’t surveillance a “liberal left” thing?

It’s a stateist thing, which she is (there’s plenty of stateists in both parties). Get away from the “unidimensional left/right” narrative cause it’s not true and it helps propagate this nonsense.

I consider myself left (yay for gay marriage and support teachers) but hate teachers’ unions. I consider myself libertarian but assault weapons make me uncomfortable. I consider myself a conservative and (or is that “but”?) think the us military budget is excessive. Labeling everything “left” and “right” allows them to keep us yelling at each other for the faults of the idiots on the extremes of either “group” and not holding them accountable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Feinstein is just reaching for more power

It is both theater and to move the ball from her court to a policy area where she legitimately can deny responsibility.

1. Sounds like the definition of double standard, but from her pov it has another agenda. She is trying to steer more overview to the senate committee! EU doesn’t need too much theater from USA. Their allies* will ruin any significant screwing with US surveillance.

*Scandinavia, UK and Ireland are in one of the highest circles of trust in terms of NSA sharing information. No way they would jeopardize that for what seems to be going beyond theater in the rest of EU! Since most in the area of security in EU is unanimous or consent procedures in the councils, a veto from either of the countries would stop any EU-wide consequences. A few minor issues will probably be let through for theatrical effect.

2. NSA, CIA and FBI operate with a certain discretion. Since some of their programs are indefensible politically, their work with politicians is mostly on a “need to know”-basis. “Plausible deniability” is the reason why politicians normally do not want to know about too much of the dirt the agencies deal in. She is attacking that unspoken agreement, nothing more.

3. In her own mind she is consistent and of course Snowden is still a traitor.

4. Actually she seems to go pretty far in shooting at the plausible deniability pact. She probably wants the overview for her own little kingdom to be broadened to include foreign programs (which, by the way, makes sense regardless!). It is an attempt of a powergrab from her side, nothing more or less.

5. I doubt the timing is random and it could make her sound like she is not against the act (she most definitely is!). Sounding like a hypocrit is better than sounding like a complete nutjob. Sounding like she is tempering the extreme statements she has made in the past is communication strategy. She hasn’t changed a bit.

Me says:

Sen. Feinstein and others here in California (and elsewhere) have really the pulse of their constituents.

I have voted for Sen. Feinstein in every election since 1992, simply because I support 80%+ of her platform. She, and the Democrat party leaders, think they can count on that support again because, more or less, that same “80%” platform alignment will trump all once again at the next election.

They are wrong.

Where Obama, Feinstein, Alexander, Clapper et all are wrong here is that where they have gone off course is so fundamentally opposed to liberty and our Constitution that *I* would be complicit in crime against the American people (and others) were I to vote the same criminals back into office. I’m not going to do it.

I get several missives a week asking me to contribute once against to DNC and local Dem candidates and causes (I am relatively big contribute forthe last 30 years). Sorry, you lost my support. I sent my representative (Adam Shiff) a note a few months back that my continued support for him would be based on two and only two issues: his response to the Syrian “crisis” and his response to the NSA’s crimes. I got back a canned letter telling me things were bad in Syria (with nothing to say about the NSA, even though Shiff himself is the pusher of one of the weak NSA reform bills). So, he lost my support, and I will be contributing time and money to whichever candidate aligns on those two issues (pulling back our war machine and pulling back our citizen surveillance). The same goes for every candidate on up to President.

As I noted to the head of the DNC (Debbie Wasserman Schultz) some months back: the current elected Dem officials are doing irreparable harm to our brand. At a time when we should be putting our power into our real core policies, we are spending time defending anti-democratic, unconstitutional programs that serve no purpose that is in the interests of the average U.S. citizen.

If you want to spend your time going that route, instead of pushing those “80%” platform alignments that we have, then I’m not going to feel compelled to support you the next election, simply because you have just told me that *you* don’t care about all those things either. If you prefer to run on your record about the things I (and most like me) *don’t* support, then you don’t get my support at all. It would be unreasonable to think otherwise.

I”m just one person, but in elections that are frequently decided on 51-49 breakdowns, do you really want to alienate the great mass of reasonable, ordinary Americans in the middle like me who actually care about our country?

PRMan (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So it’s YOUR fault! 🙂 J/K

I had to go through the same exercise with the Republicans when Alberto Gonzalez started redefining torture. No thanks. Getting anywhere near torture is not what America is about.

Glad to see others doing the same on the other “side”. Let’s all be one side now for the good of America.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I have voted for Sen. Feinstein in every election since 1992

So it’s YOUR fault! 🙂 J/K

It’s not a laughing matter.

I thought about responding to the poster’s comment with:

It’s a little bit late to APOLOGIZE now, you fucking asshole.

But then I thought better of it. The guy’s just not going to understand that he had a responsibility, and he blew it. And now it’s a just little bit too late to change things. He was 80% in favor, and now he’s stuck with his fucked-up choice.

But the guy will probably just insist that the consequences aren’t really his fault. You can’t talk to someone like that.

Probably better not to say anything.

Me says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Probably better not to say anything.”
____________________________________

You already represented yourself as a partisan hack who puts his own ego and desires in front of his concerns for the country. It’s exactly that problem that has gotten us to the dysfunctional place we are today. Reasonable people can differ on political matters without letting their interests in that arena warp their ability to interact with and cooperate with people who don’t align 100% with every issue.

Anonymous Coward says:

Unless the United States is engaged in hostilities against it’s own people 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 law abiding citizens. The Constitution should be requires a warrant based in probable cause to approve any collection of this sort.

FTFY

Anonymous Coward says:

Senator Spystein and her “oversight” board are a complete failure. It’s nice to know she cares more about foreign citizens being spied on, than she does her fellow Americans.

When someone fails so spectacularly at their job in the civilian world, that person get’s terminated. If a failure happens in Government, no-one loses their job, but everyone else loses their freedom.

Misrepresentative Rogers and Senator Spystein need to be fired. This needed to happen months ago when the spying revelations first broke and these two put their NSA cheerleader skirts on.

Bill Stewart says:

Senate Intelligence Committee's scope

Hans #10 – The Senate Intelligence Committee may have started as a followup to the Church Committee investigations of US spying on civilians, but its purview includes all US intelligence activities and budgets, including the military’s intelligence branches as well as the NSA and CIA, and it’s done things like reviewing the quality of intelligence gathering in Iraq. Wikipedia article.

Also, the Senate are responsible for setting American foreign policy, particularly approving treaties, so even if a committee’s primary focus was overseeing spying on Americans (which is illegal, and the committees have done a shoddy job of overseeing it), intelligence activities that affect foreign policy aren’t totally out of scope. (The State Department does the day-to-day work of foreign government relations, but Congress still owns policies, even when it lets the Executive Branch control them in practice.)

Anonymous Coward says:

This big fat review will be all in the dark its purely for PR. We will never know if they get reigned in and some of these programs dismantled.

They change the name of a program shift it to a new division and start it up all over again.

We need something other than Mike Rogers and Dianne Liestein. We need to give some unbiased trustworthy people with security clearance access and have then deliver a report and recommendations.

FM Hilton (profile) says:

Switching sides

She’s playing the revered game of “Oh, my goodness, I’m supposed to be concerned about this!” while on the other hand not really giving a damn.

It’s called hypocrisy and she’ll turn like a leaf when told to by her friends and handlers.

Then she’ll support the NSA again.

It’s a big club with lots of members, one of whom is the President himself.

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