Commentary on Senator Feinstein’s Defense of NSA Surveillance

Written by Ralph E. Stone. Posted in Opinion, Politics

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Published on November 05, 2013 with 7 Comments

War hawk Sentaor Dianne Feinstein supports NSA snooping of Americans.  File photo by Luke Thomas.

War hawk Senator Dianne Feinstein supports NSA snooping of Americans. File photo by Luke Thomas.

By Ralph E. Stone

November 5, 2013

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) recently wrote an op-ed piece, “NSA’s call-records program is prudence — not prying,” that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle defending the National Security Agency’s programs. In her op-ed, Feinstein disingenuously assures us that the NSA does not conduct surveillance, but rather it merely collects information contained on the average telephone bill, not the content of the messages.

Feinstein further claims there are “strong legal and constitutional protections already in place to prevent improper behavior.” But where were the “protections” when the NSA monitored the phone calls of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and rhw leaders of other allies, including France, Spain, Mexico and Brazil?

According to the Senator, the erosion of public confidence in our intelligence community can be laid at the feet of whistle blower Edward Snowden, the former NSA intelligence analyst who disclosed classified material outlining the pervasiveness of the NSA programs. The erosion of public confidence in our government started way before Snowden during the George W. Bush administration. Bush and his minions built a case for war against Iraq without regard to factual evidence concerning Iraq’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

And remember the “Plame Affair,” where Valerie Plame was outed by then Vice President Dick Cheney as a covert CIA operative allegedly in retribution for her husband James C. Wilson’s op-ed piece in the New York Times arguing that, in his State of the Union Address, then-President Bush misrepresented intelligence leading up to the invasion of Iraq by suggesting without evidence that the Iraqi regime sought yellowcake uranium in Niger to manufacture nuclear weapons. No WMDs were ever found in Iraq.

Further, Bush alleged that there was a secret relationship between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Untrue. On April 29, 2007, former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet said on 60 Minutes, “We could never verify that there was any Iraqi authority, direction and control, complicity with al Qaeda for 9/11 or any operational act against America, period.”

And who can forget Secretary of State Colin Powell’s 2003, infamous presentation before the United Nations to “prove” the urgency to invade Iraq. Powell claimed that Iraq harbored an al Qaeda network, despite evidence to the contrary. He showed photos of an alleged poison and explosives training camp in northeast Iraq operated by the al Qaeda even though this area was outside Iraqi control and even though U.S. intelligence agencies found no substantive collaboration between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Later, Powell acknowledged that much of his 2003 UN presentation was false.

Finally, on April 16, 2009, President Obama released four top secret memos that allowed the CIA under the Bush administration to torture al Qaeda and other suspects held at Guantánamo and secret detention centers round the world in violation of international law.

Clearly, public confidence in our government had eroded well before Snowden exposed the NSA programs.

Who’s watching the NSA? The watchers supposedly include internal NSA audits, the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) panel of judges, the President’s Civil Liberties and Oversight Board, a newly appointed presidential intelligence privacy review group, and the respective Congressional intelligence committees. Senator Feinstein is Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Committee is one of the watchers. Were those with oversight, including Feinstein, asleep at their post or did they simply look the other way while the NSA ran amok? Why didn’t the strong legal and constitutional protections touted by Senator Feinstein prevent the NSA’s improper behavior?

Senator Feinstein is now touting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Improvement Act (Ah, there’s that word “surveillance” again.) The proposed Act does not change anything about the way the FISA Court works, nor does it provide for an advocate to represent those American individuals or groups that the FBI and NSA want to  wiretap. It provides no significant improvement in the oversight of FBI/NSA electronic eavesdropping activities, and it does not restrict or tighten the control of the FBI collection efforts. In short, the proposed Act is nothing but window dressing.

Under the Obama administration, it appears surveillance will continue to trump civil liberties.

Ralph E. Stone

Ralph E. Stone

I was born in Massachusetts; graduated from Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School; served as an officer in the Vietnam war; retired from the Federal Trade Commission (consumer and antitrust law); travel extensively with my wife Judi; and since retirement involved in domestic violence prevention and consumer issues.

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  • David Sloane

    Who is watching Senator Fieinstein ?

  • voltairesmistress

    Diane Feinstein has never found a surveillance practice she did not find justified. I know, because I have written to her and received that, “just trust us, we know what is best” answer multiple times. Watch her on Sunday news programs and she defends any and everything the Senate Intelligence Committee oversees. She’d like to lock up Edward Snowden for life as a traitor. The senator is a rubber stamp for every sort of domestic and foreign spying. She has no understanding of the power that data-mining, as opposed to traditional wire-tapping, has to invade our lives. Either that, or she does understand its invasive ability and simply does not care. We, her constituents, are in her view, uninformed, stupid children, and she, the adult making decisions. Time to run a serious primary challenger.

  • Vilkus

    what a hack you are Mr. Stone. Do some homework. They make it easy with Goggle you know. You don’t even need to go to the library anymore. You lazy hacks with your short no infor essay’s are short lived.. Get ready for SS.
    Obamacare is ready for you.
    Sorry for you lack interest in reality but the rest of us will go on with our lives while you live in an hour glass set to 2006.

  • Vilkus

    Don’t shun “Zero Dark Thirty”.. even though it is a bunch of lies.
    Except of the woman who made it happen.
    They have dragged her name everywhere without a medal..
    give her the medal and jail the liars

  • Vilkus

    Please contact me asap with information about when women will be required to register for the selective service.

    Thank you and I look forward to making America an Country of All created Equal.

    Richard Veil

    Thank you in advance for your response.

  • Vilkus

    Amazing what lies pass for truth. Vilkus will tell you the truth

  • Ralph E. Stone

    When will Vilkus tell us the truth?