"I don’t understand this being bamboozled into thinking that you have to do this to find bad guys. That’s false. There’s very simple principles you can use to find out who is the bad guy and who isn’t and you can do this without violating anybody’s privacy”. - Bill Binney, former NSA code breaker on CBS Early Show, June 19, 2013
Senator Dianne Feinstein is now learning it's real easy to chirp and posture about the national security state having "to protect the country" by mass surveillance, especially when your own 4th amendment 'ox' isn't being gored. It was convenient for her, way back in November, when she was hell bent to disembowel all fourth amendment protections for Americans by pushing on congress a "FISA Improvements Act" which would, in fact, have gutted all remaining protections of privacy and basic rights for Americans - by legalizing a loophole known as the "backdoor search provision". I already went into some of this in previous blogs and the reasons why it's a terrible idea. One can start with the statement of the 4th amendment itself - which evidently Feinstein has no clue about:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
What we conclude then is the NSA, government mass surveillance, mass warrants that Ed Snowden revealed, disclosed a rejection not only of citizens’ fundamental right to privacy but any right to be secure in one’s person, papers, effects. So, screw the citizen, the gov’t has arrogated to itself the right to seize anything deemed personal or private once it’s within its purview – whether a phone record, an internet communication, email or whatever. The powers -that- be may really argue they’re doing this for our own good, but in reality they are acting the part of a fascist dictatorship in denying any right of privacy or recognition of individuality at all.
According to Michelle Richardson, the surveillance lobbyist for the ACLU:
"For the first time, the statute would explicitly allow the government to proactively search through the NSA data troves of information without a warrant. It may also expand current practices by allowing law enforcement to directly access US person information that was nominally collected for foreign intelligence purposes. This fourth amendment back door needs to be closed, not written into stone.”
Section 6 of Feinstein’s bill blesses what her committee colleague Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat and civil libertarian, has called the “backdoor search provision, which the Guardian revealed thanks to a leak by Edward Snowden, has revealed. Feinstein’s bill passed the committee on an 11 to 4 vote on 31 October. An expanded report on its provisions was released by the committee the last week of November, and added details about the ability of both intelligence and law enforcement to sift through all foreign communications databases that it accumulates under section 702 of the Fisa Amendments Act of 2008. (This is the specious law that legalized ex post facto Bush's warrantless wiretaps. Rather than hauling the Bushies over the coals, our traitors in congress found it easier to legalize the misdeeds).
All this is backstory to what's now unfolding on Capitol Hill. That is, The CIA (according to Feinstein, in a forty minute tirade two days ago), breaking into the Senate Intelligence Committee computers and eliminating the key files of the Panetta Report. In this report, the Senate Intelligence Committee had the goods on just how vile the CIA torture and rendition program really was. What we do know now, in retrospect, is that it was in early December when the Central Intelligence Agency began to suspect it had suffered what it regarded as an embarrassing "computer breach."
Investigators for the Senate Intelligence Committee, working in the basement of a C.I.A. facility in Northern Virginia, had obtained an internal agency review summarizing thousands of documents related to the agency’s detention and interrogation program. Parts of the C.I.A. report cast a particularly harsh light on the program, the same program the agency was in the midst of defending in a prolonged dispute with the intelligence committee. In other words, exposure of the secret internal report would have exposed the spooks as being duplicitous and excessive (and likely unlawful) in their methods of extracting information (well depicted in the film Zero Dark Thirty, btw, which saw the spooks blowing a gasket when it came out, asserting things never went down like that. Now we know they likely did!)
Enraged that their 'cover' was blown, Agency officials began scouring the digital logs of the computer network used by the Senate staff members to try to learn how and where they got the report. Their search not only raised constitutional questions about the propriety of an intelligence agency investigating its congressional overseers, but has also resulted in two parallel inquiries by the Justice Department — one into the C.I.A. and one into the committee.
Feinstein, for her part, has maintained the documents were given to the Committee, not pilfered from computer networks, which I am inclined to accept. And while Obama officially ended the program — which began in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks and expanded into a network of secret prisons in Thailand, Romania, Lithuania and elsewhere — he never followed up by prosecuting the ones that did it. It was left to Leon Panetta to drive an internal review of exactly how far the spooks stepped over the line.
Feinstein, therefore, ought to be vigorously defending and demanding the full disclosure of this report - which ALL Americans have a right to know about- given representatives of their nation did it. But sadly, she appears more indignant at the violation of the sacred propriety of her Committee. In other words, as NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd observed yesterday, she's more aggrieved at having her 4th amendment rights trashed (and those of her Committee) than protecting the same rights of fellow Americans.
And what of the Obama White House? According to a New York Times report:
A deal was struck between Leon E. Panetta, the director of the C.I.A., and Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the intelligence committee’s Democratic chairwoman, to make millions of documents available to the committee at a C.I.A. facility near the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Va. The documents covered roughly five years: from the inception of the program until September 2006, when all of the C.I.A.’s prisoners were transferred to the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
At the same time, Mr. Panetta ordered the C.I.A. to conduct its own review of the documents, a move designed to help the agency better understand the volumes of the material it had agreed to hand over to its congressional overseers. This review, a series of memos that in recent days has come to be called the “Panetta Review,” is the internal study now at the center of the dispute between the C.I.A. and Congress.
Some people who have read the review memos said that parts of them were particularly scorching in their analysis of extreme interrogation methods like waterboarding, which the memos described as providing little intelligence of any value.
Meanwhile, Sen. Mark Udall
(CO) has said it was his understanding that the internal review “is consistent with the
intelligence committee’s report” and “conflicts with the official C.I.A.
response to the committee’s report.” He said the existence of the report
“raises fundamental questions about why a review the C.I.A. conducted
internally years ago — and never provided to the committee — is so different from
the C.I.A.’s formal response to the committee study.”
What is clear to the deep politics educated person is that the C.I.A. - as it was inclined to do with its internal report on the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion (which put the entire onus and responsibility on the Agency) - doesn't want these new conflicts (between what they really did in torturing and said they did) revealed to the public. Hence, the aggressive response to Feinstein's Senate Committee.
But, as in the case of the JFK assassination, the American people deserve to know the truth and not have it concealed from them. To an extent, as Chalmers Johnson ('Blowback') has noted, we are responsible (as voting citizens) for our leaders' policies. If these policies are contrary to our Constitution or International law (as the CIA torture program most certainly was) then we have a right to know about them. In the end, we will be held as accountable as our leaders.
Hopefully, Dianne Feinstein will bear this in mind when she next endorses another NSA enabling law that takes 4th amendment rights from ordinary citizens.