Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Ca.) is the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. She and her closest aides are privy to some of the nation’s most closely guarded secrets above and beyond that of an ordinary member of the intelligence committee. When a highly sensitive covert operation requiring a presidential “finding” be reported to Congress hers is one of the very few offices in the loop and one of the first to be briefed.
Senator Feinstein is also suddenly shocked that the NSA, which was set up to spy on foreign governments and has been briefing her for years – is allegedly spying on foreign governments:
“It is abundantly clear that a total review of all intelligence programs is necessary so that members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are fully informed as to what is actually being carried out by the intelligence community,” Feinstein said in a statement to reporters.
“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.
With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of US allies – including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany – let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed.
Lest you be forgiven for thinking that Senator Feinstein was chairing an intelligence committee in some other universe than the one in which we live, she recently had this to say about NSA domestic mass surveillance of ordinary Americans (which the NSA is not supposed to be doing at all except in very narrow circumstances):
The NSA call-records program is legal and subject to extensive congressional and judicial oversight. Above all, the program has been effective in helping to prevent terrorist plots against the U.S. and our allies. Congress should adopt reforms to improve transparency and privacy protections, but I believe the program should continue.
The call-records program is not surveillance. It does not collect the content of any communication, nor do the records include names or locations. The NSA only collects the type of information found on a telephone bill: phone numbers of calls placed and received, the time of the calls and duration. The Supreme Court has held this “metadata” is not protected under the Fourth Amendment.
Set aside the cutesy and deliberately misleading part about the underlying metadata case which was decided in a radically different context than NSA mass surveillance – these two statements together effectively mean that Senator Feinstein is ok with the NSA functioning unfettered as the world’s most powerful secret police agency but not as an agency tasked with acquiring foreign intelligence. Doing things, like, you know, espionage to discover the real views of other world leaders….
Now fairness admits that there are other possibilities for Chairman Feinstein’s public statements:
- Senator Feinstein is giving “cover” for allied leaders to save face with their domestic critics up in arms about US spying by throwing them a bone to help them calm their voters and media.
- Senator Feinstein is playing to the Left wing of her own Party and in the California electorate
- Senator Feinstein is sticking a well-deserved knife in the backs of a few people high up in the NSA and the White House for previous slights directed at her personally and her committee
- Senator Feinstein sees herself presiding in nationally televised Church Hearings II, starring the heroic Diane Feinstein
- Senator Feinstein is a loose cannon
Your guess is as good as mine, but the idea of America getting out of the foreign intel business or taking German crocodile tears at face value is harebrained.