The hypocrisy of Dianne Feinstein

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) spoke out yesterday morning about the accusations that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had accessed committee staffers’ computers. In a 40-plus minute speech, Feinstein accused the agency of removing documents related to its investigation into the agency’s Bush-era detention and interrogation programs and intimidation:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said that the situation amounted to an attempted intimidation of congressional investigators, adding: “I am not taking it lightly.”

She confirmed that an internal agency investigation of the action has been referred to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution. And she accused the CIA of violating the Fourth Amendment, various federal laws and a presidential executive order that bars the agency from conducting domestic searches and surveillance.

She has sought an apology and recognition that the CIA search of the committee’s computers was inappropriate, but said: “I have received neither.”

Her comments blow wide open a dispute that has simmered behind the scenes in recent weeks after press reports said that the CIA had searched computers intended to be used solely by the panel to in an effort to determine how committee staff members gained access to a draft version of an internal agency review of its controversial interrogation program. The computers were provided by the CIA and housed at a separate facility in Virginia operated by an agency contractors.

The allegations leveled by Feinstein and other members of the Intelligence Committee are very serious. The fact that an any executive-level agency, especially the CIA, would violate the constitutional separation of powers is incredibly concerning.

But there is a tremendous amount of hypocrisy in Feinstein’s complaints, as valid as they are. You see, the California Democrat has been an apologist for the National Security Agency’s (NSA) domestic surveillance programs, in which Americans’ phone records are collected and stored for future access. In fact, she led the charge late last year to legalize these programs.

The domestic surveillance programs, authorized by general warrants obtained through the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court (FISC), gather millions of phone records of ordinary Americans, none of whom are suspected of terrorist activity, in hopes to connect the dots to terrorists plots. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) has called this using the “haystack to find the needle.”

There is little evidence, if any, to suggest that the NSA programs prevented acts of terrorism. Moreover, claims that the programs would have stopped the 9/11 terrorist act have been debunked.

Keep in mind that the Fourth Amendment implies the right to privacy, explicitly barring the use of general warrants. Yet, Feinstein, who has failed in her duty to properly oversee the NSA, has ignored this fundamental civil liberty. It only seems to matter when a committee she oversees is targeted by an overreaching intelligence agency.

What’s more, to her point of the separation of powers, the NSA programs were not authorized by law. Sure, the PATRIOT Act has been used as the justification for the domestic surveillance programs, but that defies congressional intent. That, according to Sensenbrenner, the author and primary sponsor of the 2001 anti-terrorism law.

And none of this even speaks to the pass that Feinstein has given Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who lied under oath last month in testimony before the Intelligence Committee.

Spying on innocent Americans, that’s fine with Feinstein. Lying to Congress, also apparently not a problem. But how dare the CIA spy on the committee that she leads. That’s the point at which the intelligence agencies cross the line.

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