Dianne Feinstein, who defends NSA data-mining of Americans: I’m outraged we’re spying on foreign leaders

posted at 11:21 am on October 29, 2013 by Allahpundit

An amazing footnote to this week’s diplomatic trainwreck. Feinstein isn’t any random Democrat, remember; she’s the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. She’s also a loud-and-proud defender of data-mining digital communications in the U.S. to help identify terrorists abroad. As recently as nine days ago, after months of Snowden-related depth charges detonating under the NSA’s hull, she still went ahead and published an op-ed in a major paper dismissing objections to the agency’s call-records program. If she’s okay with that, surely she’s okay with the NSA doing what it’s designed to do by harvesting intel from foreign actors — especially influential foreign actors who shape events that might affect America’s national security, right?

No. That’s where she draws the line.

“With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of U.S. allies—including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany—let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed.

“Unless the United States is engaged in hostilities against a country or there is an emergency need for this type of surveillance, I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers. The president should be required to approve any collection of this sort.

“It is my understanding that President Obama was not aware Chancellor Merkel’s communications were being collected since 2002. That is a big problem.

“The White House has informed me that collection on our allies will not continue, which I support. But as far as I’m concerned, Congress needs to know exactly what our intelligence community is doing. To that end, the committee will initiate a major review into all intelligence collection programs.”

Per various unnamed intel officials who spoke to the LA Times, someone in the White House was aware. Others told WaPo that Obama first learned of the practice this summer; hard to imagine how that’s true, given that some intel from some head of state somewhere must have made its way up the chain to him over the past four years, but the same officials also say that he wasn’t angry when they told him. Why should he be? This is their job. And they’d still be doing it, doubtless with O’s blessing, if not for Snowden’s exposure. No C-in-C would voluntarily blind himself to information that might give him a strategic advantage militarily or economically.

The irony of Feinstein’s statement is that it inadvertently seems to confirm a core critique of the U.S. intelligence establishment by Snowden supporters while also inadvertently helping them achieve one of their chief strategic goals. It’s one thing to argue that the NSA should have a relatively free hand globally to gather information that might save American lives, but that’s not what Feinstein’s doing — at least not anymore. Affecting theatrical outrage that we’d spy on Angela Merkel while defending data-mining of U.S. citizens sure makes it look to the average person that the real target of NSA surveillance is Americans. (Even worse is Feinstein generating that outrage only upon learning that a fellow member of the international elite had been tapped.) Beyond that, like I said last week, I think some significant part of Snowden’s supporters are less interested in defending Americans’ civil liberties from domestic surveillance than in damaging the United States internationally by revealing foreign spy ops that will cause rifts with allies. (Some NSA defenders on Twitter see the Snowden/Greenwald project as more a modern version of “Active Measures” than a sincere libertarian resistance.) Their goal, presumably, is to reduce American power abroad as those relationships fray and to reduce the NSA’s reach internationally by forcing the agency to pull back in embarrassment. You would think a big NSA fan like Feinstein would want to resistt that effort, but no, she’s now loudly calling for Obama to end this practice. And it looks she’ll get her way. The NSA’s going to pull back internationally, at least a little.

Exit question via Greg Pollowitz: When Feinstein says we should stop spying on “friendly presidents and prime ministers,” who does she mean? There are a few clear-cut examples — the UK, Canada, Israel — but lots and lots of examples that aren’t clear cut. If Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, suddenly discovers next month that his phone’s being tapped, what conclusion should he draw from that about whether America sees him as a friend or not? We’re going to need a firmer standard than friendship here.

Update: “We’re really screwed now,” said one NSA official to The Cable about Feinstein’s switch. Did she know about the surveillance of foreign leaders all along?

A former intelligence agency liaison to Congress said Feinstein’s sudden outrage over spying on foreign leaders raised questions about how well informed she was about NSA programs and whether she’d been fully briefed by her staff. “The first question I’d ask is, what have you been doing for oversight? Second, if you’ve been reviewing this all along what has changed your mind?”

The former official said the intelligence committees receive lengthy and detailed descriptions every year about all NSA programs, including surveillance. “They’re not small books. They’re about the size of those old family photo albums that were several inches thick. They’re hundreds of pages long.”

A senior congressional aide said, “It’s an absolute joke to think she hasn’t been reading the signals intelligence intercepts as Chairman of Senate Intelligence for years.”


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You would think a big NSA fan like Feinstein would want to push back against that effort, but no, she’s now loudly calling for Obama to end this practice. And it looks she’ll get her way.

She sees how pissed the rest of the world is at us…

OmahaConservative on October 29, 2013 at 11:23 AM

Feinstein isn’t any random Democrat, remember; she’s the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee

I stopped right there–has to be fiction if Democrat and Intelligence appears in a sentence together.

hillsoftx on October 29, 2013 at 11:25 AM

Did they get a comment from Winston Smith?

Wino on October 29, 2013 at 11:25 AM

Know them by who they consider threats, the demorats fear and hate us.

Bishop on October 29, 2013 at 11:27 AM

Limbaugh theorem on display. Hey Di YOU are the government. You and your Dem buddies knew about this all along

neyney on October 29, 2013 at 11:29 AM

Feinstein…If you moved her plate 5 inches to the left…she’d starve to death.

workingclass artist on October 29, 2013 at 11:32 AM

The ONLY overwhelming naivete I am seeing in all of this is the SURPRISE being expressed by people that spying on “friendly” nations” is remarkably unpopular with the “friendly” nations”.

If you want to take the jaded view of “this is how the real world operates” (which I am OK with) then what is your position on Jonathon Pollak?

Should a “real world” USA set Pollak free even though he was proven to be spying on the U.S. for Israel?

A “No blood, no foul” sort of approach? A pragmatic outlook that these things ‘happen’?

Or does it make MORE sense to say, “Any nation or person who finds out you have been spying on them is going to justifiably feel violated and react accordingly.” ???

Either Pollak goes free or Angela Merkel has a right to be pissed off – those are the only consistent positions … unless you are as dishonest as Obama.

PolAgnostic on October 29, 2013 at 11:33 AM

I am aware that Feinstench is in a position to do great harm to our country -indeed, her endeavors in that regard are legion- however, I just can’t take seriously an eighty year old woman who dyes her hair with Sherwin-Williams products.

She should be out somewhere f***ing up traffic from behind the wheel of a Buick, not hectoring people from a Senate office.

M240H on October 29, 2013 at 11:34 AM

Dianne “Zodiac” Feinstein. She and her Husbands defense billion dollar contracts make Randy Cunningham look like an amateur.

oldroy on October 29, 2013 at 11:35 AM

Whatever. Stupid lying b*tch signed off on it.

Pork-Chop on October 29, 2013 at 11:36 AM

We need to reign in the NSA spying of our friends overseas as well as innocent Americans. At least Feinstein’s comments are a step in the right direction even if hypocritical.

ModerateMan on October 29, 2013 at 11:39 AM

Did anyone expect the elite not to protect other elite?

MoreLiberty on October 29, 2013 at 11:42 AM

“Now that I’ve been caught stealing cookies from the jar and getting whacked for it, I’m totally against stealing cookies.”

Funny how this works, who knew politicians were like 5 year old kids.

Bishop on October 29, 2013 at 11:43 AM

She needs the NSA to keep spying on American citizens so they can deliver data to her on anyone daring to run against her in the next election.

No, I’m not being sarcastic. If you don’t think she will call in some favors over there at the NSA for opposition info, you are a fool. They would be especially eager and helpful if the opponent was strongly anti NSA.

kurtzz3 on October 29, 2013 at 11:44 AM

Slightly O/T, can anyone confirm the rumor the DiFi has a license to own a fully automatic weapon and in fact owns two Uzis that she hands out to her body guards at the start of the day?

kurtzz3 on October 29, 2013 at 11:47 AM

Affecting theatrical outrage that we’d spy on Angela Merkel while defending data-mining of U.S. citizens sure makes it look to the average person that the real target of NSA surveillance is Americans. (Even worse is Feinstein generating that outrage only upon learning that a fellow member of the international elite had been tapped.)

This is the heart of the matter. Reminds me of that (apocryphal?) story about Reagan, when he was interviewing prospective ambassadors. He’d show them a globe and ask them to point out which country they worked for. But it’s no longer even about which country, but which class of people politicians think of themselves as belonging to. The idea of national sovereignty is passe, we base our judicial decisions on foreign law, our borders are a sieve, Islamic terrorists are coddled and Obama makes Putin look good.

Fenris on October 29, 2013 at 11:47 AM

Why yes, it looks exactly like Snowden was right, doesn’t it?

David Blue on October 29, 2013 at 11:49 AM

Time to put this old heifer out to pasture. She is eighty yrs old and has been in the senate for 21 years…

OmahaConservative on October 29, 2013 at 11:50 AM

Feinstein isn’t any random Democrat, remember; she’s the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee

I stopped right there–has to be fiction if Democrat and Intelligence appears in a sentence together.

hillsoftx on October 29, 2013 at 11:25 AM

Even more so when you put “Feinstein” and “intelligence” in the same sentence.

Bitter Clinger on October 29, 2013 at 11:50 AM

What a scumhag.

How come so many of these creche-bound dwellers persist in DC?

Schadenfreude on October 29, 2013 at 11:51 AM

Time to put this old heifer out to pasture. She is eighty yrs old and has been in the senate for 21 years…

OmahaConservative on October 29, 2013 at 11:50 AM

That’s an insult…

to old heifers.

oldroy on October 29, 2013 at 11:52 AM

OT – speaking of creche-minded morons

Schadenfreude on October 29, 2013 at 11:52 AM

The idea of national sovereignty is passe, we base our judicial decisions on foreign law, our borders are a sieve, Islamic terrorists are coddled and Obama makes Putin look good.

Fenris on October 29, 2013 at 11:47 AM

Putin doesn’t think national sovereignty is passe. At least not Russia’s.

Obama on the other hand went to war with the consent of foreign leaders but not Congress.

David Blue on October 29, 2013 at 11:53 AM

A former intelligence agency liaison to Congress said Feinstein’s sudden outrage over spying on foreign leaders raised questions about how well informed she was about NSA programs and whether she’d been fully briefed by her staff. “The first question I’d ask is, what have you been doing for oversight? Second, if you’ve been reviewing this all along what has changed your mind?

When it bcame public knowledge, duh.

Bitter Clinger on October 29, 2013 at 11:54 AM

Let me sum up:

If its not the tea party or conservatives spying is bad.

Gatsu on October 29, 2013 at 11:54 AM

The important thing is that you don’t know when she knew about and whether she (or any of them) were for it before she was against it. In other words, we are not suppose to understand and thereby not care. Conflicting messages is the message.

Cindy Munford on October 29, 2013 at 11:56 AM

Are the foreign leaders actually as pissed as they claim or it just show for their voters?

agmartin on October 29, 2013 at 11:57 AM

To Feinstein, the real threat to America is… Americans.

No foreign leader would ever be a threat to our nation’s security.

Turtle317 on October 29, 2013 at 11:59 AM

Did she know about the surveillance of foreign leaders all along?

Damned right she knew. Just more faux “outrage” from the left.

GarandFan on October 29, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Reminds me of this old song but change the words to “I was caught spying on her spying on me”.

Looking Back To See
recorded by Jim Ed and Maxine Brown
written by Jim Ed Brown and Maxine Brown

G
I was looking back to see
C
If you were looking back to see
G
If I was looking back to see
A7 D7
If you were looking back at me

fourdeucer on October 29, 2013 at 12:02 PM

She should be out somewhere f***ing up traffic from behind the wheel of a Buick seat of a Hoveround scooter, not hectoring people from a Senate office.

Wouldn’t trust her behind the wheel of a real motor vehicle….Lord only knows when she last actually drove. She’s had people for that, even before becoming a senator.

hawkeye54 on October 29, 2013 at 12:09 PM

Hey Feinstein, didn’t you vote FOR ØbamaCare (PPACA)? Yeah, that’s what I thought so this NSA thing is not going to deflect from that uninformed, party-line, ignorant vote.

ExpressoBold on October 29, 2013 at 12:09 PM

To Feinstein, the real threat to America is… Americans.

I hear ya. And Lady Di has been a real threat to America too.

hawkeye54 on October 29, 2013 at 12:10 PM

Typical Washington elitism. As long as it is average Americans (or average Germans) being spied, no problem. However, when it’s the members of the elite or their friends, then WE HAVE A PROBLEM. Pathetic.

p_incorrect on October 29, 2013 at 12:46 PM

Meh. I don’t care if you tap Merkel’s phone and post it on Youtube.

This is what governments do. They spy on each other.

But they don’t spy on their own citizens, not without a good reason in writing, and proper authorization, also in writing.

So, I guess I’m in the exact opposite corner of Feinstein.

Chris of Rights on October 29, 2013 at 12:49 PM

A senior congressional aide said, “It’s an absolute joke to think she hasn’t been reading the signals intelligence intercepts as Chairman of Senate Intelligence for years.”

This guy also sleeps well knowing that Feinstien read the entire ObamaCare bill before voting for it.

BobMbx on October 29, 2013 at 1:02 PM

Wait, she chairs the senate intelligence committee, how can she not know or, just now be offended that we spy on other countries. Schultz!

jake49 on October 29, 2013 at 1:16 PM