Feinstein (Again) Says Metadata Program 'Is Not Surveillance'

from the you're-only-embarrassing-yourself,-Dianne dept

Senator Dianne Feinstein's war of words in defense of the NSA's programs continues, despite both the political tide and public favor shifting in the other direction. According to Feinstein, everyone is still suffering from some sort of mass delusion when it comes to the Section 215 program.

“It’s not a surveillance program, it’s a data-collection program,” she said while appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
Oh, but it's actually both. According to supporters of the NSA, metadata is just a bunch of anonymous numbers harvested in hopes of discovering needles. To those actually paying attention, metadata is a very efficient way to collect very personal information about someone. Just because it looks like data doesn't mean it's not surveillance. Let's not forget that metadata provides enough information to justify extrajudicial killings.

It's still surveillance. It just bears no resemblance to what spying used to mean. What the NSA has done is turn "surveillance" into something abstract, but equally invasive. It has eliminated the targeted nature of its classic definition and replaced it with servers full of data, all of it theoretically linked to another abstraction: "terrorism."

The headline says Feinstein "blasts" critics, but this sort of clueless pedantry doesn't actually "blast" anyone. Months after the defenders' assertions have been repeatedly dismantled (including two similar assertions by the senator), Feinstein's willingness to cling to a nostalgic view of surveillance could almost be termed "delightfully old school" -- if only she still didn't have at least one hand on the controls as the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

She also said she wasn't aware of another revelation released in conjunction with Glenn Greenwald's book on Snowden and the NSA.
In “No Place to Hide,” released last week, Greenwald said the U.S. government places surveillance tools in technology equipment to be sold abroad, an accusation the U.S. government often lobs at the Chinese government.

That program “does not sound familiar,” Feinstein said Sunday.
Well, I'm sure the NSA keeps secrets from even you, Dianne. And I'm sure the NSA is at least as surprised as you are that the information is now public. No one seems to be aware of some of the stuff that has been leaked, elements of which have escaped even the attention of those on the committees that have performed actual oversight, rather than just stood cheering on the sidelines.

Ultimately, whether it doesn't fit into Feinstein's dewy-eyed surveillance ideal or if it has escaped (read: been withheld from) her attention, she's behind it. Because without all of this, we're doomed.
“I know they will come after us if they can, I see the intelligence,” she said.

“Terror is not down in the world, it is up.”
If that's so, remind us again why all the surveillance and expansion of government powers is necessary. Because it doesn't seem to have improved anything.

Filed Under: dianne feinstein, metadata, nsa, section 215, surveillance


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 May 2014 @ 11:56am

    Re: Incompetent/Co-opted

    “That program ‘does not sound familiar,’ Feinstein said Sunday.”


    In one sense, the distinctions between 702, 215 and 12333 are not just unintelligable to the majority of Americans, but entirely irrelevant. All the same, you do need to understand those distinctions in order to follow what the players are saying.

    Most of NSA’s data collection authorized by order Ronald Reagan issued”, by Ali Watkins, McClatchy, November 21, 2013
     . . . Approved by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, Executive Order 12333 (referred to as “twelve-triple-three”) still governs most of what the NSA does. . . .

    Its Section 2.5 effectively gives the attorney general the right to authorize intelligence agencies to operate outside the confines of judicial or congressional oversight, so long as it’s in pursuit of foreign intelligence – including collecting information of Americans. . . .

    [House Intelligence Committee member Adam] Schiff isn’t alone in raising questions about how well informed Congress is kept of activities undertaken under 12333 authorities. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, has called for a broad review of what’s taking place under 12333, noting that the order authorizes phone and email metadata collection beyond what the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act does.

    Feinstein has consistently defended the NSA’s collection of domestic cellphone metadata, saying the program under which it is doing so is overseen by both the courts and Congress. But even she has said the 12333 programs skirt similar protections.

    “The other programs do not (have the same oversight as FISA). And that’s what we need to take a look at,” she said, adding that her committee has not been able to “sufficiently” oversee the programs run under the executive order. “Twelve-triple-three programs are under the executive branch entirely.” . . .

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