Di Fi — Hair on Fire

California’s senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, long a familiar face of conservative Democrats, and long a power house in the Senate, had her hair on fire yesterday on the Senate Floor.  After months, ( years?,) of defending the spy agencies of the United States, as the senior member of the Senate panel entrusted with their oversight, she suddenly discovered that the fears and accusations leveled against them — of spying on American citizens and over broadly on citizens of the world– were true.  The CIA, despite promising to give her staffers a secure site to pour over Agency documents, had violated the promise and terms of the written contract, to spy upon them.  They were entrusted with finding out what the CIA had done after the 9/11 attacks with regard to intelligence gathering and in particular how much and when had torture been used, and had it been, as claimed, effective in prying loose actionable intelligence.  The CIA wanted to know what were they finding out?

The Senator held forth for 38 minutes or so, with very particular details, and a promise that she was not taking the CIA intrusions, removal of data and broken contract lightly.   Kevin Drum, long time observer at Mother Jones thinks this will turn out to be an empty threat on the part of the Senator.  We hope not.  Ever since the Frank Church led investigation of CIA over-reach and actual crimes led to a few reforms in1975, and the creation of the Intelligence Committee of which Feinstein is the chair, the Agency has been clawing back every shred and shard of power that it could.

All of Senator Feinstein’s intervention on the floor is available here, both as a transcript and a video.  It is worth watching at least some of the action to get the anger she conveys.

A word of praise on her web site might keep her spine bent to the task.

As Amy Davidson writes in the New Yorker,

This all goes back to the first years after September 11th. The C.I.A. tortured detainees in secret prisons. It also videotaped many of those sessions. Those records should have been handed over, or at least preserved, under the terms of certain court orders. Instead, in November, 2005, a C.I.A. official named Jose Rodriguez had ninety-two videotapes physically destroyed. “Nobody wanted to make a decision that needed to be made,” he told me when I interviewed him in 2012. (He also said, “I really resent you using the word ‘torture’ time and time again.”)

Feinstein, in her speech, said that the C.I.A.’s “troubling” destruction of the tapes put the current story in motion. Michael Hayden, then director of the C.I.A., had offered the committee cables that he said were just as descriptive as the tapes. “The resulting staff report was chilling,”

And Maureen Dowd turns her snark on Langley… “which couldn’t even spy on the Senate properly without getting caught.

Langley needs a come-to-Jesus moment — pronto.

That was clear Tuesday morning when Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, suddenly materialized on the Senate floor to “reluctantly” out the C.I.A.

It was an astonishing “J’accuse” moment because Feinstein has been the bulwark protecting the intelligence community against critics worried that we’ve become a surveillance state, “the privacy people,” as she has called them.

But she saw things differently when she was the victim of government spying. She suggested that the C.I.A. had violated federal law and wondered “whether our work can be thwarted by those we oversee.”



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