This morning, I wrote an article sharing a grassroots shaming project targeting U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein has spent years protecting the National Security Agency’s massive system of electronic surveillance of Americans, and she deserves condemnation for that ongoing part of her record.
However, Senator Feinstein also deserves praise for what she’s done today. Since I published this morning’s article, Feinstein has done something extremely important: She has revealed that the CIA has been conducting spying operations against the U.S. Senate in order to stop an investigation into widespread torture by CIA agents.
Not only did the CIA spy on the Senate, but it used the information it gathered through surveillance of Senate staff members in order to attempt to intimidate the Senate into ending its investigation of CIA torture.
Furthermore, the CIA was spying specifically against the Senate Intelligence Committee – the very committee that is supposed to have oversight power to ensure that spy agencies like the CIA are not engaging in illegal and unconstitutional spying.
The spying that has been conducted by the CIA against the U.S. Senate is both illegal and unconstitutional… but then, so is the spying that’s been conducted by the NSA against the American people.
Senator Dianne Feinstein is to be thanked for finally telling Americans that the CIA has gone rogue and, though it has only been given the legal power to conduct operations against foreigners outside of U.S. borders, is now using its powers against the democratically-elected representatives of the American people in Congress. However, as part of her statement today, Feinstein admitted that she has been trying to help the CIA cover up its rogue spying activities – attempting to keep the abuses secret from the American people.
Feinstein only acknowledged the CIA’s spying abuses after journalists found out about the illegal activities on their own, and began to publish hints about the problem in prominent newspapers. Feinstein now needs to explain why she sought to prevent the CIA leadership from being held accountable for the criminal activity within the spy agency.
More fundamentally, Dianne Feinstein has worked for years to create, promote and protect secret federal government spy programs that illegally and unconstitutionally target law-abiding Americans. It is no surprise that government spy agencies, when given the power to spy against Americans without any genuine restraint, would abuse this power in order to try to subvert American democracy for their own selfish purposes. In fact, we at Irregular Times, along with countless other civil libertarians, have been warning for years that just this sort of thing would happen.
Six years ago, our writer J. Clifford warned of the possibility of spy agency intimidation of Congress, asking, “Can the Democratic Congress not find its backbone even once… just to prove that they’re not completely useless? Have they been bought, or blackmailed…?”
A few months before that, Mother Davis warned that after the passage of the FISA Amendments Act, with the help of Barack Obama and Dianne Feinstein, “The safe bet is to assume that you’re being wiretapped, and that anything that you say can be made public the next day, to prosecute you, or maybe to blackmail you. Thanks to laws like the Patriot Act, the Protect America Act, and the FISA Amendments Act, there’s no such thing as privacy anymore. If you forget that, it’s at your peril.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein seems to have believed that the threat to our constitutional rights created by the Homeland Security regime’s electronic surveillance programs applied to everyone but herself. It now appears that Senator Feinstein is only willing to reveal the astonishing criminal culture of federal government spying agencies when she and her staffers are made the targets.
Feinstein’s self-serving reversal is reminiscent of the quick reversal on the issue of government spying by U.S. Representative Jane Harman. Harman had been a solid supporter of unconstitutional spying against the American people, until she discovered that she herself had been made a target of illegal surveillance by the Bush Administration.
Senator Feinstein has rudely condemned Edward Snowden for revealing the criminal activities of the NSA, saying that the threat of Big Brother was justified by fears of terrorism. Now, she expects us to applaud her smaller action as heroic.
All right, Senator. Here you go: Clap, clap, clap…
You haven’t been doing your job as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. You have allowed government spying to run out of control. It’s time for someone like Senator Ron Wyden, who has more actively challenged the growth of abusive espionage in the federal government, to take charge of the committee’s work.
It’s also time for Barack Obama to answer for his involvement. It won’t be enough for the leadership of the CIA to resign. President Obama himself has been an architect of illegal government spying. He must be held accountable himself.
Whether he knew specifically about the CIA program to spy on the activities of the United States Senate or was unaware of what government agencies have been doing under his watch, the existence of this program is evidence enough to any reasonable person that Barack Obama has failed to honor his Oath of Office.
This scandal cannot be adequately addressed with anything short of a fully independent investigation, led by a special prosecutor with the power to bring criminal charges, and with the task of advising Congress on the legal basis for initiating the process of impeachment.