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Of all the people to come to the rescue of the Constitution, who would have thought it would be Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA).
Feinstein, after all, as head of the Senate Intelligence Committee since 2009, has yet to see an NSA violation of the Constitution, an invasive spying program or a creative “re-interpretation” of the law that she hasn’t applauded as being lawful and “needed” to “keep people safe.”
Feinstein, too, was one of the first to fly into paroxysms of outrage at National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, absurdly condemning him for being a “traitor,” though she surely knows that the Constitution very narrowly defines treason as “levying war” against the US, or providing “aid and comfort to the enemy.” As Snowden surely did not “levy war” against anyone but perhaps the NSA, and even according to the government did not provide any information to America’s “enemies” (whoever that may be in today’s unipolar world, while he may have “stolen” NSA information, he didn’t by any stretch, commit “treason.”
Feinstein, lastly, in her position as chair of the Senate Military Construction and Appropriations Subcommittee, grew rich thanks to military contracts directed to her husband , private equity and real-estate tycoon Richard Blum. (It wasn’t just military contracts either. He also managed to get to get the contract to manage the private sale of all the Postal Service properties being unloaded in tCongress’s ongoing dismantling of the national mail system.)
That is to say, this is a woman who clearly puts herself and her need for money (she’s reportedly worth over $80 million, though for most of her life she has done nothing but work as a salaried politician) first and the needs of her country somewhere way down near the floor. (Maybe that’s why she can’t understand Snowden, who put his life on the line for a principle, and not for personal gain — something that’s probably beyond Feinstein’s comprehension.)
And yet after years of CIA criminality, including torture of terror suspects, even those against whom there was no evidence, lying to Congress, and manufacturing of evidence that led to the disastrous and criminal invasion of Iraq — for all which there were no consequences in the Congress or in her Senate committee — it was Sen. Feinstein who finally called out the CIA for spying and lying.
We’d be excused, I presume, for pointing out that there is an element of self-interest here, or at least of wounded ego. While her surprise address in the well of the Senate earlier this week denouncing the Agency did refer in high-minded terms to the CIA’s having “possibly” violated the Fourth Amendment with its proscription against warrantless searches and seizures, and of its having trashed the concept of Congressional oversight and the sacred concept of tripartite government, it is really a matter of her own ego that was stepped on that set her off.
Feinstein, after all, has never complained about the many other times, particularly over the last 14 years or so, that the CIA has trashed the 4th Amendment or the law of the land. Only now, when she learns that the Agency’s spooks raided her own Intelligence Committee’s computers and deleted incriminating files about its torture program, and then asked the Justice Department to bring criminal charges against her staff members for removing files from a CIA-provided “safe room” at its headquarters to a real safe room in the Senate Office building, did the Agency’s actions in her view rise to the level of a Constitutional crisis.
But there it is. The senator who, as the main person responsible for oversight of the National Security State has been a rank apologist for its worse abuses, and an advocate for the NSA’s wholesale program of spying on the American people, is now concerned that the CIA has been spying on her and her committee.
John Stewart put it best , when, channeling the late great George Carlin, he said, “I see, our stuff is just s**t, but her s**t is … stuff!”
The irony is rich, but I doubt that much will come of this dust-up.
Sen. Feinstein and her husband Blum, already one of the wealthiest power couples of the Senate, still have much money to earn by leveraging her committee positions in Congress.
Clearly, she has an ego though, and is at the moment is on the warpath.
I suppose if CIA Director William Brennan continues to act like the wronged partner, implying that Sen. Feinstein is off her nut, she could escalate her rage and drag him into a Senate hearing room under oath to humiliate him, which would be truly entertaining. But she’s unlikely, judging by her record of fealty to the Intelligence Establishment, to do anything serious, like lock the bastard up for lying to, or hiding evidence from Congress. this is what should happen, and what her committee should have done long ago to Brennan’s boss, National Intelligence Director James Clapper, who famously stated under oath to her committee, in response to a direct question from committee member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) that the NSA was “not spying on American citizens.”
The only hope at this point is that California voters will finally decide, when she comes up for re-election again way off in 2018, that they’ve had enough of this wretched and hypocritical senator, and that they’ll drag her and her oligarch husband away from the trough where they’ve been feeding for far too long.
Meanwhile, maybe a few of the less corrupt members of the Senate could pick up where her bruised ego left off, and demand a serious investigation into the CIA’s and NSA’s many crimes against the people of the US and the world.
Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).