Intelligence Oversight? Dianne Feinstein Employed A Chinese Spy For Several Years
from the all-about-that-transparency,-eh dept
Former intelligence officials told me that Chinese intelligence once recruited a staff member at a California office of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, and the source reported back to China about local politics. (A spokesperson for Feinstein said the office doesn’t comment on personnel matters or investigations, but noted that no Feinstein staffer in California has ever had a security clearance.)
This detail, located in the middle of Zach Dorfman’s report on foreign spying in the Silicon Valley, doesn’t tell the whole story. The grand dame of intelligence oversight, the queen of surveillance, somehow managed to let a foreign spy tag along with her for several years — one employed by her for nearly two decades. Phil Matier and Andy Ross of the San Francisco Chronicle managed to get more details about this spying from a local source.
A local source who knew about the incident confirmed to us that the FBI showed up at Feinstein’s office in Washington, D.C., about five years ago to alert the then-chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee that her driver was being investigated for possible Chinese spying.
“Dianne was mortified,” said our source, who spoke to us only on condition he not be named.
The unnamed staffer was Feinstein’s driver and gofer when she was in the Bay Area and served as a liaison with the Chinese-American community. Apparently, he was recruited by someone in China during a visit to Asia.
That someone was connected with the People’s Republic of China’s Ministry of State Security.
The FBI interviewed the spy and determined he hadn’t passed on anything of value. I guess that’s a relief, but it also may indicate just palling around with Feinstein doesn’t result in much actionable intelligence. Of course, it may be the spy didn’t even know he was a spy. The SF Chronicle source says the suspected spy just considered his State Security a friend who liked to chat about US politics.
What should be concerning is how quietly this was handled. When intelligence oversight members can’t keep from being spied on by staffers, there’s a problem. It may be impossible to prevent every attempt, but having a long-time employee turn out to be a foreign intelligence source is more than embarrassing, it’s potentially dangerous. This was simply swept under the rug by Feinstein and never discussed publicly.
Trust isn’t a one-way street. Our surveillance oversight should be accountable to the public just as surely as the intelligence community should be accountable to its oversight. This should have been acknowledged and discussed publicly, not left to anonymous sources and/or FOIA warriors with the tenacity and funding to force the government to hand over documents dealing with its hidden screw-ups.