Dianne Feinstein: NSA Would Never Abuse Its Powers Because It's 'Professional'

from the your-logical-fallacy-is...66t4r dept

Senator Dianne Feinstein, as we’ve noted, seems to have this weird blindness to even the very idea that the NSA might abuse its powers, despite a long history of it doing exactly that. The history of the US intelligence community is littered like a junk yard with examples of massive abuses of power by intelligence folks. And yet, Feinstein seems shocked at the idea that anyone questions the NSA’s ability to abuse the system. Why? Because the NSA is “professional.” Appearing on Meet the Press this weekend, Feinstein just kept repeating how “professional” the NSA is as if that was some sort of talisman that wards off any potential of abuse. First, host David Gregory pointed to reporter Bart Gellman’s claim that President Obama’s NSA reforms will allow for the expansion of the NSA’s collecting personal data on “billions of people around the world, Americans and foreign citizens alike” and told Feinstein that didn’t seem like it was protecting people’s privacy. And Feinstein went straight to her “but they’re professionals!” argument:

Well, I would disagree with Mr. Gellman. I think that what the president has said is that he wanted to maintain the capability of the program. That, as Chairman Rogers said, it has not been abused or misused. And it is carried out by very strictly vetted and professional people.

Of course it has been “abused” and “misused,” but let’s not let details get in the way.

Later in the interview, Gregory asks Feinstein to comment on Rep. Mike Roger’s totally unsubstantiated (and contradicted by nearly everyone else in the know) claims that Ed Snowden was working for Russian intelligence, and Feinstein bizarrely returns to talking about just how “professional” NSA staffers are.

And do you agree with Chairman Rogers that he may have had help from the Russians?

He may well have. We don’t know at this stage. But I think to glorify this act is really to set sort of a new level of dishonor. And this goes to where this metadata goes. Because the N.S.A. are professionals. They are limited in number to 22 who have access to the data. Two of them are supervisors. They are vetted. They are carefully supervised. The data goes anywhere else. How do you provide that level of supervision?

Of course, Ed Snowden was also “vetted” and “professional.” And Feinstein seems to think he may have been working for the Russians, which seems to suggest that any of the other “vetted” and “professional” NSA employees might be abusing their position as well. And, I mean, I’m sure the NSA analysts who listened in on phone sex calls between Americans and then shared them around the office were also “vetted” and “professional.”

In fact, I’d think pretty much the entirety of human history concerning intelligence efforts suggests that abuse is almost always carried out by people who are “vetted” and “professional.” And that’s exactly what has most people so concerned about these programs and what the NSA is doing. No matter how well-meaning, well-trained or well-vetted people are, the temptation and ability for abuse is way too strong. Just last week, we were quoting a bunch of “vetted” and “professional” NSA folks talking about how they fantasized about murdering Ed Snowden. Those comments don’t sound particularly professional at all. They sound like people who shouldn’t be allowed within miles of people’s private data. But Feinstein apparently sees no problems with those kinds of people having the ability to search through your private data. Because they’re “professional.”

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Comments on “Dianne Feinstein: NSA Would Never Abuse Its Powers Because It's 'Professional'”

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Ninja (profile) says:

I am strictly vetted and professional at managing money, will you please take my word at it and entrust all your money to me Ms Feinstein? I swear it will not vanish and I will not invest it in marijuana crops. No abuses. Not at all.

Fun fact: if there is room for abuse no amount of professionalism will prevent abuses from happening. At some point somebody will have the guts and lack of ethics to be less than professional. Let us take Snowden. He was completely NOT professional. Otherwise he’d have kept things where they should be. But he is an incredibly honest, ethic man and saw the need to screw with professionalism and expose the LACK of professionalism that’s endemic to the NSA (you see, lack of professionalism may come for the good or for the bad if you think about it).

Seriously, if she can’t see the simple fact that Snowden himself is an example that spells bullshit all over her argument then we shouldn’t expect anything from her.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Just remember what "professional" means

It means that you’re getting paid. It does not mean that you’re particularly trustworthy, honest, etc. Just like “amateur” means that you aren’t getting paid, and does not mean that you’re substandard at the task.

Some of the worst people in many fields are professionals, and some of the best are amateurs.

David says:

Feinstein: There is no such thing as abuse.

It’s simple: before you can abuse a privilege or position, you need to be in a position where you are allowed to use it. At least with regard to classified data, that means that it’s part of your job description, and that means that you have to be a professional.

Feinstein says being a professional precludes abuse, so there is really no such thing as abuse.

Me says:


I’m a professional. But that doesn’t let me off the hook or ensure I don’t abuse my positions of trust. That’s why there are professional and legal obligations, audits, back-up, malpractice insurance, government regulatory oversight, SRO regulatory oversight, court oversight and so on in my area of practice.

There is absolutely no reason for the NSA ESPECIALLY a government agency like the NSA – to dodge those same sorts of legitimate checks and balances just because Sen. Feinstein is too dumb to see the big picture and seems satisfied by illusory measures.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ughh! Lexicanonical idiocracy!

PROFESSIONAL means you get paid currency. It’s a profession. Nothing more nothing less.

AMATEUR means you do it for the Love of things. You are not focused on economic rewards, but spiritual.

There’s a huge difference between proper use and ‘common’ use of these words. Neither proves competency, NOR SHOULD BE USED AS A BASIS TO RATE COMPETENCY.

I don’t know but I think the bullshit has been so swole it’s creeping back uphill. Secrecy is rooted in fear, and fear is not conductive to a harmonious humanity.

ECA (profile) says:

It used to be..

Long ago, companies were HELD responsible for their products..things changed..
Being able to SUE individuals and/in Companies CHANGED..

IT IS NOW law that companies are only there to MAKE money..any way they can.
There used to be many regulations. checks and balances..

Our gov used to have Checks and balances and controls and regulations, and DID there job..
Then complaints about TO MUCh gov. came around, and they CUT the gov, and gave the money to ???.. our services went to POT..and so did the roads and bridges..And the USDA can only inspect 8% of facilities per year..(and you wonder where food poisoning outbreaks come from)

WE are stupid enough to pay for Sat TV, when many countries its FREE, because its CHEAPER then installing 10,000 antenna to cover the area..

Anonymous Coward says:

Feinstein and Rogers have a problem on their hands. Should the NSA sink, their self-importance on the Intelligence Committee vanishes. Just as soon as people start calling them on the abuses they were supposed to oversee and prevent, the next thing is why aren’t they doing the job they were supposed to do for the people? Suddenly at that point, their electability for those seats are in question.

There is no blindness like that of one paid not to see or one who gets their importance from supporting the status quo.

Everyone but the security state supporters recognize that Snowden is a whistle blower, not a spy. Given the treatment of whistle blowers in today’s administration no one wants to actually come out and address the real problem. That of the security state gone bat shit insane. Left unchecked this will result in a state that the Nazis could only drool over. Or as President Putin states, “he “envies” President Obama because ? referring to the Snowden revelations ? “he can get away it it.”

Given Russia penchant for government spying, what is wrong with this picture?

FM Hilton (profile) says:


Usually, the word ‘professional’ indicates that the person who is one has some sort of license or education to do their job.

I’m a professional pill-pusher, licensed by the state I practice in. My official title is Pharmacy Technician-I got a little education for it, too.

What’s the license that the NSA people have? Their fantasy “007” badges that they got from the British?

They’re actually professional liars and spies. No license needed really to do their job.

Diane Feinstein is a professional politician, backed by all kinds of influence, power and money. No education needed for her job, either. All you really need is enough brains to bullshit your way into office and stay there.

Anonymous Coward says:

They say we should have no expectation of privacy and that may be true. When I give information to someone, whether it is a friend, a business, or whoever, I realize it is possible that that person or entity may give that information to someone else.

But we’re not talking about giving information here, we’re talking about TAKING it. Whether it’s tapping the lines like some hacker creating a botnet (and the “for the greater good argument is meaningless, because the government, which is suppose to be representative of the people, has clearly stated – via Chelsea Manning, Aaron Schwartz, Ed Snowden, and others – exactly what they really think of “for the greater good”) to “asking” for the information (is it really asking if you don’t really have the choice to say no? “Ya know you don’t gotta pay us protection money, but it’d be a shame if something happened to your business”) these people are taking something that doesn’t belong to them.

This government is engaged in EXACTLY the sort of behavior we declared independence from England over, so I think anyone, whether politician or member of the public, who thinks this behavior is acceptable, please renounce your citizenship and move back to England.

Daemon_ZOGG (profile) says:

"But I think to glorify this act is really to set sort of a new level of dishonor."

Ed Snowden is a hero of the Constitution and the American people. The feinstein-rogers lack-of-intelligence commitee and the NSA has already dishonored American citizens by re-interpreting the US Constitution in the worst possible way. Imagine if David Koresh and Jack Van Impe had together, focused their bizarre interpretations on the US Constitution, instead of religion. A sort of delusionary, psycho version of “Do as say, not as I do.. Or the black helicopters will come for you”. Feinstein and Rogers are as UN-American as they come.

Spointman (profile) says:

In the article about the declassified FISA briefs and orders from a couple of days ago, it was mentioned that there were 23 authorized people. Today Sen. Fennstein mentioned 22 people. In the interim, there was one notable person with access to the data who left the NSA. I wonder if that means anything, or if it’s all coincidence? :)In the article about the declassified FISA briefs and orders from a couple of days ago, it was mentioned that there were 23 authorized people. Today Sen. Fennstein mentioned 22 people. In the interim, there was one notable person with access to the data who left the NSA. I wonder if that means anything, or if it’s all coincidence? 🙂

Anonymous Coward says:

I'm a Professional

Every time I hear someone make the declaration, “I am a professional”, my mind immediately returns to a scene in the Denzel Washington movie, ‘Man on fire’ with a corrupt Mexican kidnapping investigator bent over the hood of a car, sweating profusely, having just learned that he has an ied placed up his rectum declaring, “I’m a professional.”

Retribution is such a nasty business.

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