Senator Feinstein Finally Finds Surveillance To Get Angry About: When It Happened To Her Staffers

from the well,-look-at-that dept

This morning, Senator Dianne Feinstein finally got angry over the abusive practices of the intelligence community that she oversees as head of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Historically, of course, Feinstein has used her role of “oversight” to actually do everything possible to protect and defend the various intelligence organizations. However, as we’ve been discussing, Feinstein has wanted to declassify and publish an apparently devastating $40 million 6,300 page report detailing how the CIA’s torture program was a complete disaster. The CIA has been fighting hard against this, and in the last few weeks, it came out that the CIA also spied on Senate staffers who were working on the report, after they’d uncovered an internal CIA document that corroborated the big report, and which showed the CIA had lied to the Senate. The CIA has hit back trying to blame the staffers for “illegally” taking a classified document, but that argument rings hollow.

Feinstein is apparently quite furious about all of this and let loose this morning about the CIA, claiming that they not only spied on the staffers, but secretly removed documents from the computers the staffers were using. She directly claimed that the CIA “may have undermined the constitutional framework” of Congressional oversight. That’s not a charge one throws around lightly.

Besides possible constitutional violations, Feinstein said the CIA may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, various federal laws and a presidential executive order that bars the agency from conducting domestic searches and surveillance. She said she has asked for an apology and recognition that the CIA search of the committee’s computers was inappropriate, but, “I have received neither.”

While this confirms much of what was reported last week, it’s noteworthy that Feinstein is speaking out about it. To date, she has tried to avoid saying much about this whole debate publicly, but it appears that the issue has finally boiled over. As we noted last week, having the CIA spy on its Senate overseers (and potentially tampering with their computers to remove documents) is an incredible overreach.

Of course, wasn’t it just less than two months ago that Feinstein claimed that the intelligence community would never abuse its powers, because they were made up of professionals whose activities are “strictly vetted”? Perhaps she’ll now go back and admit that perhaps she shouldn’t be so trusting of the intelligence community when they’re spying on everyone else, beyond just her staffers.

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Comments on “Senator Feinstein Finally Finds Surveillance To Get Angry About: When It Happened To Her Staffers”

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silverscarcat (profile) says:

NOW it's important...

NOW she says the 4th Amendment is important.

HA! Don’t make me laugh, you goddammed fucking hypocrite! You’re only upset because you found out that the CIA knows all your doctor visits, what you’re going in for and any other dirty little secret.

Don’t like, Feinstein, you, like your buddy Mike Rogers, never ONCE cared about the 4th Amendment, privacy or liberty, all you cared about was your paycheck.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is the problem with the ruling class

The problem with the ruling class is they are ok with trampling on the peasants, but let them be treated the same way and suddenly that pesky document called the constitution is thrown about. This is exactly why we have this document. Its all fun and games when things are happening to other people, the other political party, etc; but it suddenly is objectionable when it happens to you, your party, etc.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: This is the problem with the ruling class

To be fair, this isn’t restricted to just the ruling class. When Brazil introduced mandatory fingerprinting+mugshots for foreign visitors, there was an outcry in the US as well. Even though every visitor to the US must undergo the same, and this hasn’t changed in the last decade.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Really? All she wants is an admission and an apology? This isn’t a 4 year old that just got caught taking candy without asking. How about actually holding someone accountable for a change? This just shows she doesn’t have a clue what it is supposed to mean to be in an oversight position.

beltorak (profile) says:

Re: Re: "Removed" documents?

Thanks for that. The article seems to throw in “removed access” and “removed documents [from computers]” in the same paragraphs and even sentences sometimes, so it’s hard to tell. But

When the internal Panetta Review documents disappeared from the committee’s computer system, this suggested once again that the CIA had removed documents already provided to the committee….

I think that’s clear that the documents were “physically” removed from a computer under the committee person’s control.

Does this mean that the CIA has (despite honest to god promises and cross my heart pinky swears) violated the CFAA?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Haven’t you read a recent article here ?

Not even American but I know the FBI is much more of a threat to you guys, more insidious than the NSA can be.

I mean, before Snowden, NORMAL people knew the NSA did all this, but we were joked at as crazy. Normal people continue to see the FBI as a threat to the US as a due process implementing Just country even more than the NSA.

Anonymous Coward says:

Frankenstein or Feinstein's monster ?

First they came for the Foreigners, and She* did not speak out– Because She* was not a Foreigner.

Then they came for the Press, and She* did not speak out– Because She was not a journalist.

Then they came for the Local Plebs, and She did not speak out– Because She was not a Local Pleb.

Then they came for Her–and there was no one left to speak for Her.

That woman didn’t “not speak out”…. She is part of the “they” that comes for people.

Feinstein’s monster.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Frankenstein or Feinstein's monster ?

She may be part of the ‘they’, but she is not an insider within the run-amok out of control intelligence community.

She is merely part of the ‘oversight’. Oversight that the intelligence community merely tolerates. Maybe their level of tolerance is declining, and this is but one crack that has been exposed by them getting caught.

She is merely a manager, in a sense, of the spooks, but not one of them. Eventually when they come for her, she will not be considered by them to be one of them. Just an inconvenient nuisance.

Probably less convenient now that she is calling them out instead of being their chief cheerleader.

So why doesn’t she have a much stronger response? Maybe because she knows what they have on her.

David says:

So when

So when will she drop her “my kids would never do bad things” act?

It’s piss-poor sad that people like Merkel or Feinstein are totally fine with everybody’s privacy getting violated under their “oversight” but get furious when they are given the same treatment they find appropriate for everybody else.

Joel (profile) says:

Re: So when

What does Angela Merkel have to be riled about (and I don’t think she really is – her anger was mostly for domestic consumption)? I don’t care if the NSA spies on her. That’s part of their job. The government should be spying on foreign heads of state – even and especially heads of state. Espionage is an excellent tool of diplomacy, as it is very useful to the diplomats to know what Merkel and those around her are saying privately about the things they say in public which interest us. They do it to us, we do it to them. It’s how the world works and, done properly, helps prevent more serious problems. This is the mandate of the intel community. Spying on every American in the country is not part of that mandate (in addition to being illegal).

Anonymous Coward says:

>The CIA has hit back trying to blame the staffers for
>”illegally” taking a classified document, but that argument
>rings hollow.”

I believe the McClatchy story said that the staffers printed a copy of the classified document and walked out the door with it. That is a huge no-no. You would think the Senate Intelligence Committee would know the most basic rules of how to properly handle classified material. The CIA’s argument doesn’t ring hollow.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Excuse me, but there is a huge difference between illegal and wrong.

Brennan never said it was illegal; that was TechDirt’s spin. He said, “I am very confident that the appropriate authorities reviewing this matter will determine where wrongdoing, if any, occurred in either the executive branch or legislative branch.”

> If you are charged with oversight, then nothing should be off limits.

What about waterboarding?

> If the CIA is actively trying to thwart your investigation, then it’s your job to go behind their backs.

Maybe. There are still no details or evidence about how this alleged spying was carried out. Maybe the CIA keeps printer logs to make sure employees aren’t printing classified material to take home. Does checking those logs count as spying?

Deleting files, on the other hand, is pretty fishy, but still, this sounds like a he-said she-said argument between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA. An easy fix would be to just make the report public.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: .. The CIA is incapable of telling the truth.

You make several points:
1. If a CIA puke opens its mouth all that ever dribbles out is lies
2. and stupidity.
3. You can’t work for the government and have a brain they are mutually exclusive.

I disagree with 2 and 3. These people are very smart. Being smart is not mutually exclusive with being a liar, ignoring the law, subverting the constitution, or manipulating government or extorting government officials.

On point 3, smart people may very much want to work for the government in order to have power. Some people want to have power publicly. These are the less smart ones. The real smart ones want to have the real power but have it in secret.

David says:

Re: Re:

The CIA’s argument rings hollow because it essentially boils down to “success is an excuse for anything”. And since one has to make the decision before knowing if and when one might be successful, it’s actually like “there are no limits to what we do”.

And it’s the job of the oversight committee to make sure that there are limits to what the overseen entities do. So the one party you don’t want to get caught messing with, no matter how unfair you feel they might be treating you, is your own oversight committee. You can appeal to a higher instance, but certainly not take matters into your own hands.

Since that spells out clear as day “we are out of control, and out of oversight”.

The oversight committee is their own d**n fig leaf. If there is a mottled spot, they have nothing to win by taking it out with a machine gun.

Anonymous Coward says:

not so nice when it’s you or yours that are on the receiving end, is it Feinstein? getting a taste of your own medicine and it’s about time! funny how you never once mentioned how the surveillance of EVERYONE violated the Constitutional Framework! until it was you, that is! what the hell gives you the right to NOT be spied on, but those you defend constantly can spy on everyone else, with your blessing! you need to get the hell outta Dodge!!

Tyler says:


Feinstein complaining about “possible constitutional violations” WTF!?!? She is the biggest constitutional violation our country has ever seen. If anyone needs spied on it’s her!

She has repeatedly attempted to use her position to violate the constitutional rights of the citizens of United States and particularly those of California.

She has repeatedly introduced legislation attempting to strip citizens of their second amendment rights while the senator herself excersizes her right to carry a concealed gun/”assault weapon”(hey if she gets to call any gun she wants an assault weapon, so can I).

She has repeatedly defended the abuses of power agencies under her oversight have used to violate our fourth amendment rights.

But now, it would seem that her blatant violations of the second and fourth amendments are not enough for her. She is now pushing legislation to limit the rights afforded under the first amendment, namely freedom of the press. Thats right, she wants the government to have more control over the media.

Feinstein = hypocrite

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Really???

The arch conservatives in Orange County always force the Republican party to nominate someone that makes Rush Limbaugh look like a socialist to run against her. That person always carries Orange County by a landslide and not much else.

Feinstein’s seat is 100% safe because no one with a chance to win will ever be able to run against her.

Anonymous Coward says:

None of the articles, both here and those linked, do not to my recollection go into any detail about what spying on staffers entailed. In the articles they do provide that the staffers traveled to CIA headquarters and left with copies of classified documents without the CIA’s knowledge. At least one of them stated that the CIA learned about the taking of the documents via analysis of its internal computer systems.

Did the spying extend beyond the above, and if so to what extent?

Phoenix84 (profile) says:

I emailed her, this is her reply (received about a week ago):

Thank you for your letter expressing your support for reforming National Security Agency (NSA) programs. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue, and welcome the opportunity to respond.

First, please be assured that the NSA does not conduct mass surveillance on U.S. citizens. Its mission is to collect foreign signals intelligence to detect foreign national security threats. For your convenience, a summary of the NSA’s authorities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is available on the agency’s website or at

Please know that I support measures to improve oversight of U.S. intelligence programs and to make them more transparent to the public. On October 31, 2013, I introduced the “FISA Improvements Act” (S. 1631), which would require court review when the NSA call records database is queried, and mandate a series of limitations on how the records can be obtained, stored, and used. It would also authorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to designate outside “amici curiae,” or “friends of the court,” to provide independent perspectives and assist the Court in reviewing matters that present a novel or significant interpretation of law.

Additionally, on November 5, 2013, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which I chair, approved the “Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014” (S. 1681), which would strengthen existing protections that allow whistleblowers in the Intelligence Community to bring their concerns directly to the attention of Congress, inspectors general, and Intelligence Community leaders. The bill would also require the Department of Justice to inform the Congressional intelligence committees of all Office of Legal Counsel opinions regarding intelligence activities, and extend the charter of the Public Interest Declassification Board, which promotes public access to a thorough record of U.S. national security decisions and activities.

Finally, as Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I have called for a full review of all U.S. intelligence programs. For your convenience, I have included an opinion piece I authored in the San Francisco Chronicle on November 2, 2013 that further outlines proposals that I support.

Again, thank you for writing. Please know that as Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I take seriously my responsibility to ensure that national security programs honor the privacy and Fourth Amendment rights of U.S. citizens. I will certainly keep your concerns in mind as Congress considers legislation to reform NSA programs. Should you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841.

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

David says:

Valid complaint

The Intelligence Oversight Committee is supposed to oversee the CIA spying operations. It cannot reasonably expect to do so if the CIA spies on the oversight committee itself.

That’s a total travesty of “oversight”. I’m with Feinstein on that.

The populace is supposed to oversee the government operations. It cannot reasonably expect to do so if the government spies on the populace itself.

That’s a total travesty of “democracy”. I’m against Feinstein on that.

Trevor says:

And then they came for me

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

-Martin Niem?ller (1892-1984)

Seems fitting…

Anonymous Coward says:

National Security Letters

It’s highly probable that the CIA just filed an NSL on a staffer’s name to make the search and seizure “legal”. That would be the easiest way Feinstein got her hands on an “internal” document like that… Unless this truly was done under the table and there’s a whistleblower in the CIA.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: National Security Letters

Or FISA warrant.. It would also explain the slap on the wrist. The laws don’t exclude members of congress, but I think someone unknown like a staffer’s name would be more easier to get the rubber stamp approval on. The judges who are approving the warrants know who Dianne Feinstein is.

FM Hilton (profile) says:

I thought we were friends!

Oh, the betrayal!

“I didn’t tell you that you could spy on my people! Who do you think you’re dealing with, anyway? Do you know who I am?”

Serves her right. Now she’ll see what we’re all upset about-until they promise to stop spying on her and her staff..then it’s back to business as usual.

Hypocrisy and short attention spans work together.

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