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"A Defining Moment"
March 11, 2014 10:28 AM   Subscribe

United States Senator Dianne Feinstein Publicly Accuses C.I.A. of Spying on Congress. 'The chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday accused the Central Intelligence Agency of improperly removing documents from computers that committee staff members had been using to complete a report on the agency’s detention program, saying the move was part of an effort to intimidate the committee.' 'Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California and the chairwoman of the committee, suggested on the Senate floor that the agency had violated federal law and said the C.I.A. had undermined Congress’s constitutional right to oversee the actions of the executive branch.'

'The disclosure comes a week after the first reports that the C.I.A. late last year had carried out a separate search of computers used by her staff. The C.I.A. said it carried out the search to uncover how the committee gained access to an internal review of the detention program cited by Democratic lawmakers critical of the program.

Calling the present conflict a “defining moment” for the oversight of American spy agencies,” Ms. Feinstein forcefully denied that committee staff members had obtained the internal review improperly, saying that the internal document had been made available as part of the millions of pages of documents that the agency had given the committee to conduct its investigation.'

'The expanding dispute has opened a rift between the CIA and the Senate committee that oversees it and often has defended it. Already, some CIA officers could face criminal prosecution as a result of a Justice Department investigation of the incident.'
posted by VikingSword (164 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
This news is big; DiFi is the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and has historically carried a lot of water for spy agencies. She's been mostly silent to supportive of NSA through the whole Snowden revelations. It makes me furious that it takes her personally being the victim of illegal surveillance to speak out. But at least she finally is.
posted by Nelson at 10:32 AM on March 11 [83 favorites]


Um, wow. Hell of an accusation. Here's hoping she can prove it (if it's true).
posted by grubi at 10:32 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


Whoa. I usually hate it when people make comments like "Shit just got real!" in response to news like this, but I'm not sure what phrase would better capture my initial reaction to this news.

That's a damn big deal right there, is what that is.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:32 AM on March 11 [6 favorites]


"Hans, are we the baddies?"

You know, typing this is getting old
posted by humboldt32 at 10:32 AM on March 11 [33 favorites]


Um, wow. Hell of an accusation. Here's hoping she can prove it (if it's true).

Whether she can prove it or not, this is history-making territory.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:33 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


It's been a week since we first learned CIA is spying on Congress. I'm confused why it's taken this long for the story to go big.
posted by Nelson at 10:33 AM on March 11 [7 favorites]


saulgoodman: "Um, wow. Hell of an accusation. Here's hoping she can prove it (if it's true).

Whether she can prove it or not, this is history-making territory
"

yeah, but what is she going to do about it?

my money's on jail time for some officers, then back to business as usual.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 10:35 AM on March 11 [6 favorites]


I guess everyone who said people like Diane Feinstein would only care about spying when it happened to them were right (see everything she's said about the NSA).
posted by dilaudid at 10:35 AM on March 11 [30 favorites]


Well, if she's not doing anything wrong she has nothing to worry about.

/hamburger
posted by birdherder at 10:35 AM on March 11 [24 favorites]


A search on her senate web site for statements on CIA surveillance suggests that this is her opinion this week, and she had a similar opinion back in 2006, but that she's been all over the place on this in the past and will continue to be all over the place on this in the future.

Basically: Public opinion is swinging away from the CIA, so she' s riding the trend.
posted by straw at 10:35 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


Yeah populists!
posted by smidgen at 10:36 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


sauce for the goose...
posted by lampshade at 10:37 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


It's okay, Senator. It's called "protecting America", right?
posted by bowmaniac at 10:37 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


I'm sure that "people will be held responsible" and "measures to ensure this doesn't happen again" will occur.
posted by Big_B at 10:37 AM on March 11 [10 favorites]


This news is big; DiFi is the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and has historically carried a lot of water for spy agencies. She's been mostly silent to supportive of NSA through the whole Snowden revelations. It makes me furious that it takes her personally being the victim of illegal surveillance to speak out. But at least she finally is.

QFMotherFuckingT

I am a big DiFi fan outside of her ridiculous stance on surveillance and, while it is incredibly lame that it might take this to change her mind, if she does stop covering for the NSA that would be a big win.
posted by Aizkolari at 10:43 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


As a former CA constituent, Feinstein is a steaming pile of shit. It's good to see her upset.

No one wins this zero-sum game in the long run, though. Maybe the shadow government does.
posted by mafted jacksie at 10:43 AM on March 11 [4 favorites]


Kidnap, torture, rape, murder, lie, finance warlords, bomb cell phones, drug citizens, blackmail, destabilize governments, assassinate leaders foreign and domestic, smuggle weapons, operate without oversight, create your own secret courts and laws, take a dump on habeus corpus, create terrorists all you want but DON'T YOU DARE DELETE MY PDFs!
posted by mike_bling at 10:46 AM on March 11 [65 favorites]


So if this is true, it seems monumentally stupid on the CIA's part. Never mind the evil and unethical nature, it's pretty terrible strategy to enrage the person who's in charge of your funding.
posted by octothorpe at 10:46 AM on March 11 [4 favorites]


grubi: "Um, wow. Hell of an accusation. Here's hoping she can prove it (if it's true)."

Realistically speaking: it's Congress. She can prove it if enough Congress Members agree with her, and she can't if they don't.

Facts might help, but Congress' decisions are about politics as much as facts.

The political issue just shifted from "Do our constituents care enough to replace us with our opponents in the upcoming elections if we don't act?" to "Do I care the NSA is rifling through my desk and ignoring my constitutional powers?"
posted by IAmBroom at 10:48 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


I'm sure that "people will be held responsible" and "measures to ensure this doesn't happen again" will occur.

Yup, we'll see a new director of the CIA any day now. Of course, we've run through five in as many years already, but surely this time it'll be just the thing!
posted by enn at 10:49 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


it's pretty terrible strategy to enrage the person who's in charge of your funding.

Unless you believe you are above the law (or above Congress in this case).
posted by doctor_negative at 10:51 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


First time I've come remotely close to feeling like I'm being represented by my senior senator.
posted by univac at 10:52 AM on March 11 [10 favorites]


"Do I care the NSA is rifling through my desk and ignoring my constitutional powers?"

Um...we are all aware that the CIA and the NSA are two different agencies, right?
posted by yoink at 10:52 AM on March 11


It makes me furious that it takes her personally being the victim of illegal surveillance to speak out. But at least she finally is.

The difference here is at least in part that the NSA surveillance is legal, at least until a court says it isn't. In this case, the CIA was specifically doing something it had agreed not to. To quote the American Conservative quoting McClatchy (via The Dish):

As part of this [Congressional] investigation [of the CIA], intelligence committee staff were required by the CIA to use Agency computers in a secure room in Langley to access millions of sensitive documents. Congressional investigators reportedly agreed to use those computers under the condition that their work not be monitored by the CIA, in accordance with due respect for the separation of powers and the integrity and independence of the investigation. Apparently, the spy mentality proved too strong to resist, as earlier this year the committee determined that their work had in fact been monitored in possible violation of their agreement.

In other words, it sounds like there was a very clear line about what the CIA folks were or were not supposed to do, which is very different from the NSA's activities, which are founded on a whole lot of law. (Folks might consider that law poorly grounded, but it nonetheless exists.)
posted by Going To Maine at 10:52 AM on March 11 [9 favorites]


Feinstein is a hypocrite, through and through: Constitutional protections for Congress, and none for everyone else. That said, I hope this is a catalyst for some kind of positive change.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:53 AM on March 11 [4 favorites]


My money is on the CIA starting some sort of counter-spin and somehow embarrassing pictures of Senator Feinstein doing stuff with a penguin being released to the media. Or just straight-up having a bit too much to drink and wobbling out into traffic.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 10:54 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


yoink: ""Do I care the NSA is rifling through my desk and ignoring my constitutional powers?"

Um...we are all aware that the CIA and the NSA are two different agencies, right?
"

Thanks for the correction.

"Do I care the CIA is rifling through my desk and ignoring my constitutional powers?"
posted by IAmBroom at 10:55 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


I predict the bad apples defence.
posted by Bovine Love at 10:57 AM on March 11 [5 favorites]


I predict the Chewbacca defence.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:57 AM on March 11 [5 favorites]


So if this is true, it seems monumentally stupid on the CIA's part.

Ahh, the beautiful, corrupting, and ultimately self-defeating privilege of having no experience that sometimes there might be consequences for things. "Consequences" being the sort of thing that normally only happens to Others.
posted by anonymisc at 10:58 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


Enjoy your "enhanced privacy," Ms. Feinstein.
posted by localroger at 10:58 AM on March 11 [5 favorites]


The Scorpion and the Frog
posted by ryoshu at 10:59 AM on March 11 [15 favorites]


I predict The Monkey's Bum.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:01 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


The last senator to stand up to the CIA was Frank Church. Went from winning the previous election to losing the next election by less than a percentage point.
And there's this (Wikipedia)

In a secret operation code-named "Minaret," the National Security Agency (NSA) monitored the communications of leading Americans, including Senators Church and Howard Baker, Dr. Martin Luther King, prominent U.S. journalists and athletes, who criticized the U.S. war in Vietnam. A review by NSA of the NSA's Minaret program concluded that Minaret was "disreputable if not outright illegal."
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:03 AM on March 11 [7 favorites]


"Do I care the CIA is rifling through my desk and ignoring my constitutional powers?"

But it is important to keep this straight because what is happening here is not Feinstein suddenly coming to the realization that governments shouldn't have spy agencies or suddenly deciding that she's been wrong all along in thinking that the CIA's and the NSA's activities aren't broadly compliant with the 4th amendment. What is happening here is that Feinstein thinks that a particular spy agency has broken a specific set of laws and agreements and that they need to be rapped over the knuckles for it. So those who say that a few people will be disciplined and that perhaps we'll get a new head of the CIA and that nothing much else will change are right--not because Feinstein's a hypocrite or a populist or because she's grandstanding or anything like that (though all those things may well be true to a greater or lesser extent), but because the reason she's outraged by this is conditioned by a particular understanding of the rights and duties of the US spy agencies which has nothing in common with the maximalist interpretations of the 4th amendment that tend to prevail here on Metafilter.
posted by yoink at 11:05 AM on March 11 [25 favorites]


The Washington Post says she specifically called out the CIA for violating the Fourth Amendment, so if anybody asks why I tied from a head explosion, you can point them to that article.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:11 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


Feinstein is pretty much the embodiment of "When it happened to X, I did not speak up for I was not an X".
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:11 AM on March 11 [15 favorites]


Whatever else you might say about Feinstein (and believe me, I've cursed her under my breath a time or two myself), it takes courage to make a serious claim like this. When people set themselves against intelligence services, their lives have a way of coming unraveled (and somehow it always looks just plausibly enough like it might all just be accidental or coincidental).

What's important here is that this proves people's concerns about spying powers potentially being abused to manipulate the political process are justified. You can't prove a general claim from any one particular data point, but this development proves that those kinds of concerns are not without a sound basis in reality.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:12 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


DiFi, more like DINO. Still, hooray for the tiniest bit of progress.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:18 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


'tied from a head explosion' is how Boethius was killed. "A rope was attached round his head and tightened till his eyes bulged out, then his skull was cracked." I doubt the CIA would be up to that, it would be Medieval.
posted by stbalbach at 11:21 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


Derail, but whenever I hear Feinstein, I flash back to this.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:23 AM on March 11


Dipshit congressmen and their staff callously exploiting classified materiel for political gain has always been one of the primary ways in which intelligence agencies lose access to their sources of information, human and otherwise, in ways that can be ...unpleasant for those involved and at least this path to information release pretty much never really ends up with the public any more meaningfully informed about anything anyway. That there is no meaningful way to investigate or police craven dipshits like Feinstein really is one of the major flaws to our system, but this crosses dead serious lines. Its not like these lines haven't been crossed before, but this kind of bullshit undermines the core credibility of American democracy.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:23 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


I had written DiFi off as a collaborator and MIC apparatchik. I'll be damned.

You go Senator.
posted by spitbull at 11:28 AM on March 11 [4 favorites]


From what I understand, one of Feinstein's real issues is torture, so there's that. Maybe it's just that it's been successfully swept under the rug so far as to not to require her to take a stand until now. Make no mistake, this involves NSA spying, but about the SSCI torture report, so that's why DiFi is in the spotlight. I mean, it's not like she goes around sharing principles with the citizenry all the time.
posted by rhizome at 11:33 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


I'm willing to have Church commission round 2 if need be, but when someone claims "the CIA deleted my files" I'm going to have to check "does this person know how to use computer?" first.
posted by kiltedtaco at 11:34 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


Dipshit congressmen and their staff callously exploiting classified materiel for political gain has always been one of the primary ways in which intelligence agencies lose access to their sources of information,

This is very obviously not that. The CIA has performed an illegal domestic intelligence operation against their own oversight committee to cover up a previous illegal operation, and then refused to answer questions about any of it.

I can see how a reasonable person would have a problem with that.
posted by mhoye at 11:34 AM on March 11 [21 favorites]


The CIA and the NSA need to be dismantled and replaced with something that has meaningful oversight.
posted by deanklear at 11:35 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


when someone claims "the CIA deleted my files" I'm going to have to check "does this person know how to use computer?" first.

I was struck by the revelation that they're not sure when it happened. No source control? No document management system? Jesus.
posted by mhoye at 11:35 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


The CIA and the NSA need to be dismantled

I would cut out the rest of this sentence and replace it with "and people need to go to jail for this shit." Nothing about any of this is serious until the people who made these decisions and the people who implemented them are behind bars.
posted by graymouser at 11:37 AM on March 11 [5 favorites]


Nothing about any of this is serious until the people who made these decisions and the people who implemented them are behind bars.

And you think demanding an entire agency follow rules that were commonly disregarded by the President as part of that President's Administration is going to have traction? Unless Gonzalez, Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld go down, no one else is. Just considering the political power of the players involved, it's asking for the moon with whip cream on top.

I'd much rather get the records out and the truth known and shame their family names for eternity. Millionaire kleptocrats always find ways out of prison. They'd flee to a neutral country at the drop of a hat. And to be frank, we elected an incompetent administration and we can see the results. It's the government we voted for and the government we deserved. The blood of their mistakes are still on our hands as much as anybody's.
posted by deanklear at 11:44 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


I predict the bad apples defence.

I love the bad apples defense, because it's a confession.

When apples ripen, they release ethlyene gas, which causes other apples to ripen faster, hastening the onset of rot. If a barrel of apples contains a few bad apples, in short order, the other apples will ripen and rot also.

"We have a few bad apples", to anybody who knows anything, is a confession that the speaker is also rotten.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:46 AM on March 11 [20 favorites]


And you think demanding an entire agency follow rules that were commonly disregarded by the President as part of that President's Administration is going to have traction?

I think it's the kind of demand that can actually make a dent in the incredibly corrupt shadow government. Sure, the elected government wouldn't touch them if they felt they had any choice. Which is why the goal should be to make it so they don't.
posted by graymouser at 11:51 AM on March 11


Impeach the bad apple.
posted by three blind mice at 11:52 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


> "We have a few bad apples", to anybody who knows anything, is a confession that the speaker is also rotten.

Because people who say "we have a few bad apples" always have command of the agricultural sciences and know exactly what the phrase implies, botanically speaking?
posted by savetheclocktower at 11:55 AM on March 11 [6 favorites]


Well you don't even need to know about ethylene, just the full idiom, which also implies that every apple rots: "a few bad apples spoil the barrel"
posted by jason_steakums at 11:56 AM on March 11 [12 favorites]


I enjoy how people think this is about Feinstein somehow taking on the CIA when really it's about a senator protecting the Legislative Branch.
posted by incessant at 11:57 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


Re "bad apples": there's a nice piece by Geoff Nunberg about the way the meaning of the proverb has changed over the years (and the popularity of the saying increased): it is now used far more to emphasize the relative rarity of the 'bad apples' and far less the danger that one rotten apple poses to the soundness of those it is stored with.
posted by yoink at 12:01 PM on March 11 [8 favorites]


Oh yeah, proverb, not idiom.
posted by jason_steakums at 12:03 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


It's far more important to rein in the intelligence community than it is to say "I told you so." So even though Feinstein's support may be skin deep, I'd much rather the focus be on the CIA's abuses than the thinness of Feinstein's support.

So, kudos to Feinstein, I've been angered by her in the past, but I support the goals of this fight. Even if it is only to protect the legislative branch, that's better than the legislative branch being abused as much as the rest of us.
posted by Llama-Lime at 12:03 PM on March 11 [5 favorites]


I enjoy how people think this is about Feinstein somehow taking on the CIA when really it's about a senator protecting the Legislative Branch.

Considering the CIA has no constitutional authority to exist as a permanent, political entity with any influence whatsoever on the legislative process, protecting the legislative branch's authority (the only legitimate, lawful political entity involved in this scandal) is functionally the same thing as taking on the CIA...
posted by saulgoodman at 12:03 PM on March 11 [4 favorites]


Wait, they promised not to monitor what was being done in the sealed room.
It's not monitoring if they belatedly command the computers to "remove *embarassing.pdf"

Remember what Snowden noted -- finding ways to weasel around the rules is part of the job.
posted by hank at 12:08 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Robert Eatinger, Lawyer Who Approved Torture Tape Destruction, Tries to Intimidate Senate Investigators
posted by homunculus at 12:14 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]


Feinstein is a hypocrite, through and through: Constitutional protections for Congress, and none for everyone else. That said, I hope this is a catalyst for some kind of positive change.

Senator Feinstein Finally Finds Surveillance To Get Angry About: When It Happened To Her Staffers
Of course, wasn't it just less than two months ago that Feinstein claimed that the intelligence community would never abuse its powers, because they were made up of professionals whose activities are "strictly vetted"? Perhaps she'll now go back and admit that perhaps she shouldn't be so trusting of the intelligence community when they're spying on everyone else, beyond just her staffers.
posted by homunculus at 12:16 PM on March 11 [5 favorites]


Breaking News: Diane Feinstein is the Zodiac Killer claims FBI/CIA/NSA investigation.

Washington DC-- A senior FBI official has confirmed that metadata analysis and secret wiretaps of the Senator have uncovered definitive evidence that Senator Feinstein (D) California is the Zodiac Killer. The FBI official who could no be named for reasons of national security said that the conclusion of the investigation would not be possible without the help of the NSA and CIA domestic spying programs. "This is just another example of how we are able to keep you safe"
posted by humanfont at 12:24 PM on March 11 [8 favorites]


TPM has a transcript of Feinstein's full statement up over here (didn't see it posted anywhere upthread; sorry if I just missed it and this is redundant).
posted by saulgoodman at 12:29 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


I'm willing to have Church commission round 2 if need be, but when someone claims "the CIA deleted my files" I'm going to have to check "does this person know how to use computer?" first.

I apologize in advance for the extensive quoting here. Feinstein's statement provides several compelling reasons why it is probably not a simple case of user error, and is worth reading in its entirety. There is much more than what I have included here.

So, why is it unlikely to have been simple user error? Number one, it had happened before, and even though the CIA had probably lied to her committee about a nonexistent White House order to delete the documents, she considered the matter closed after a simple apology:
In May of 2010, the committee staff noticed that (certain) documents that had been provided for the committee’s review were no longer accessible. Staff approached the CIA personnel at the offsite location, who initially denied that documents had been removed. CIA personnel then blamed information technology personnel, who were almost all contractors, for removing the documents themselves without direction or authority. And then the CIA stated that the removal of the documents was ordered by the White House. When the committee approached the White House, the White House denied giving the CIA any such order.

After a series of meetings, I learned that on two occasions, CIA personnel electronically removed committee access to CIA documents after providing them to the committee. This included roughly 870 documents or pages of documents that were removed in February 2010, and secondly roughly another 50 were removed in mid-May 2010.

This was done without the knowledge or approval of committee members or staff, and in violation of our written agreements. Further, this type of behavior would not have been possible had the CIA allowed the committee to conduct the review of documents here in the Senate. In short, this was the exact sort of CIA interference in our investigation that we sought to avoid at the outset.

I went up to the White House to raise this issue with the then-White House counsel, in May 2010. He recognized the severity of the situation, and the grave implications of Executive Branch personnel interfering with an official congressional investigation. The matter was resolved with a renewed commitment from the White House Counsel, and the CIA, that there would be no further unauthorized access to the committee’s network or removal of access to CIA documents already provided to the committee.

On May 17, 2010, the CIA’s then-director of congressional affairs apologized on behalf of the CIA for removing the documents. And that, as far as I was concerned, put the incident aside.
Number two, the CIA told them it "searched" their computers. This next quote refers to the incident that is now in the press, and that the CIA has not apologized for:
On January 15, 2014, CIA Director Brennan requested an emergency meeting to inform me and Vice Chairman Chambliss that without prior notification or approval, CIA personnel had conducted a ‘‘search”— that was John Brennan’s word — of the committee computers at the offsite facility. This search involved not only a search of documents provided to the committee by the CIA, but also a search of the ‘‘stand alone’’ and ‘‘walled-off’’ committee network drive containing the committee’s own internal work product and communications.

According to Brennan, the computer search was conducted in response to indications that some members of the committee staff might already have had access to the Internal Panetta Review. The CIA did not ask the committee or its staff if the committee had access to the Internal Review, or how we obtained it.

...

I have asked for an apology and a recognition that this CIA search of computers used by its oversight committee was inappropriate. I have received neither.

Besides the constitutional implications, the CIA’s search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.
This time, instead of apologizing, the CIA is going full throttle in the opposite direction. Their inspector general has asked the DOJ to investigate allegations that committee staff illegally accessed records given to them by the CIA. And Feinstein is alleging major abuses by the CIA. One of the reasons why this is so weird is because it played out so differently the last time it happened.
posted by compartment at 12:29 PM on March 11 [8 favorites]


Speaking surveillance and destroying evidence: In Lawsuit Against NSA Surveillance, Coalition Moves to Prevent Destruction of Evidence
posted by homunculus at 12:33 PM on March 11


Finally, an issue Democrats and Republicans can agree on.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:51 PM on March 11


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on Tuesday stood by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) after she publicly accused the CIA of breaking the law and spying on Congress.

"I believe in the separation of powers. I support Senator Feinstein unequivocally," Reid told reporters in the Capitol. "And I'm disappointed that the CIA is apparently unrepentant on what I understand they did."

posted by Chrysostom at 12:52 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]


> I enjoy how people think this is about Feinstein somehow taking on the CIA when really it's about a senator protecting the Legislative Branch.

Isn't this just American Government 101? Each of the three branches of government working to protect their own interests provide a check on the others?

My favorite take on the Founders is that they didn't think they were the first good people to try to create a government, but they assumed that people were kind of selfish jerks and tried to build good institutions from there.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:52 PM on March 11 [7 favorites]


Impeach the bad apple.

The president isn't the only bad apple, nor did the spoilage start with him. Impeaching him alone wouldn't solve the problem of a large surveillance state that has grown over many years and many administrations. Many people need to go to jail; many of the systems they built need to be remade to work for the people.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:53 PM on March 11 [5 favorites]


The difference here is at least in part that the NSA surveillance is legal, at least until a court says it isn't.

That's a very debatable point. Well would be, if debate were permitted. A primary problem of the NSA's current power is they're basically immune from judicial oversight. (Other than the secret FISA court that issues secret decisions in support of NSA actions.) There's been no real legal examination of NSA's actions against Americans, in particular review of all the relevant executive orders. And maybe this is naive but I still believe in the Fourth Amendment being the prevailing law.

But your larger point "the CIA was specifically doing something it had agreed not to" is true, and I imagine is why Feinstein has been moved to act in this case. Because they broke a specific rule and targeted her committee on a specific issue (torture) that she seems to care about. So we've got that going for us, which is nice.

I sure wish we had more congresspeople like Wyden who take a long term principled stand on limiting government surveillance.
posted by Nelson at 12:55 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]


I sure wish we had more congresspeople like Wyden who take a long term principled stand on limiting government surveillance.

"The price good men pay for indifference to political affairs is to be ruled by evil men."
posted by deanklear at 12:59 PM on March 11 [4 favorites]


So, this is interesting. From that statement it sounds like the documents were CIA-provided documents, stored at a CIA or contractor operated site on presumably (?) CIA-owned computers, and were at some point removed from access. Which, well, that doesn't sound anything like hacking, and just sounds like a bureaucratic fight amongst the two branches of government. Problematic, but not shocking. (Although upon now rereading the post text, it carefully says "computers the committee had been using", which on a quick read through sounds like the committee's computers in their own offices, but it's not.)

The second incident regarding the committee's computers, now that's a problem with what the CIA can and cannot access. That's the one we need more details on.
posted by kiltedtaco at 1:04 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


The difference here is at least in part that the NSA surveillance is legal, at least until a court says it isn't.

This is Dick Cheney's explicit view on even the larger territory of this issue.
posted by rhizome at 1:05 PM on March 11


The difference here is at least in part that the NSA surveillance is legal, at least until a court says it isn't.

And if (another) court says it isn't, then we will hear about that court's dangerous judicial activism and how they're putting America at risk, while the program continues anyway.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:09 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Holy shit, Brennan set out to acquire blackmail material on Senators sitting on a committee investigating the CIA: the CIA was looking for a certain classified document they didn't believe Senate staffers were entitled to, and when they found it where it wasn't supposed to be, Brennan confronted them - what happened here is that the blackmailer hasn't yet caught on that the blackmail is by far the worse offense, and that his mark, Sen. Feinstein, has not only called his bluff, but blew up everything in an absolute worst-case scenario for him. Not only were they entitled to have the document, they told the CIA they had the document - and the CIA forgot! He was trying to play hardball, and she took a baseball bat to him for being evil and stupid.

If Brennan was legitimately concerned that the Senate had breached secrecy rules, he would have involved the DOJ. The CIA were NOT entitled to investigate on their own... the only reason they had for running that search was to use it as leverage over the Senate. As a matter of fact, they threatened to prosecute senate staffers - why threaten ahead of a legitimate DOJ investigation? They were trying to strong-arm the Committee.

This is Not Going To Go Well for the CIA.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:09 PM on March 11 [17 favorites]


deanklear: "And you think demanding an entire agency follow rules that were commonly disregarded by the President as part of that President's Administration is going to have traction? Unless Gonzalez, Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld go down, no one else is. Just considering the political power of the players involved, it's asking for the moon with whip cream on top."

You ... do realize they aren't in power anymore, nor at the time of this incident (2010), right?
posted by IAmBroom at 1:11 PM on March 11


compartment: "Their inspector general has asked the DOJ to investigate allegations that committee staff illegally accessed records given to them by the CIA."

Wow... that's bald-faced and bold. Completely unspooklike. Did Sheriff Joe Arpaio get a job with the CIA?
posted by IAmBroom at 1:16 PM on March 11


"Mistakes were made..."
posted by blue_beetle at 1:17 PM on March 11


You ... do realize they aren't in power anymore, nor at the time of this incident (2010), right?

David Buckley, a main focus of their investigation, one of the CIA torturers-in-chief under the GWB administration, is the one who threatened to sick the DOJ on them.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:20 PM on March 11


I want to amend my earlier comment to say that just reading the Feinstein statement is the way to go, and that these short summaries can't quite convey the complexity of the situation.
posted by kiltedtaco at 1:24 PM on March 11 [3 favorites]


Slap*Happy: "You ... do realize they aren't in power anymore, nor at the time of this incident (2010), right?

David Buckley, a main focus of their investigation, one of the CIA torturers-in-chief under the GWB administration, is the one who threatened to sick the DOJ on them.
"

Yes, in 2013 or 2014. None of "Gonzalez, Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld" were in power then.

The legality of torture is not the focus of this complaint from Sen. Feinstein. This thread is discussing the legality of actions by the CIA against Feinstein's committee, actions which apparently all happened in the Obama administration.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:28 PM on March 11


The legality of torture is not the focus of this complaint from Sen. Feinstein. This thread is discussing the legality of actions by the CIA against Feinstein's committee, actions which apparently all happened in the Obama administration.

You missed this part:
I should note that for most, if not all, of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, the now acting general counsel was a lawyer in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center — the unit within which the CIA managed and carried out this program. From mid-2004 until the official termination of the detention and interrogation program in January 2009, he was the unit’s chief lawyer.
Buckley is the acting general counsel - and a torturer under Senate investigation.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:34 PM on March 11


I'm not sure if it's been linked to above, but here's the full statement by Feinstein's office. I found it a bit more detailed than some news stories that have been circulating. What's troubling to me is that *nothing* happened after the torture videotapes were destroyed in 2007. White House Counsel AND the Director of National Intelligence objected to their destruction, and yet the CIA has the audacity to suggest that their operational cables are basically the same thing. If the contents of those tapes had survived, the "debate" about whether the United States engages in torture would be over.
posted by antonymous at 1:42 PM on March 11


Impeach the bad apple.

Too late. Also, his paintings aren't *that* bad.
posted by aught at 1:44 PM on March 11


You ... do realize they aren't in power anymore

People with that kind of money and influence are never out of power. If you can pick up a check for $4 million to get someone elected or call a press conference and have major networks show up, you're still in the ballgame.

That's sort of the problem. Why scale back when you might have another group of humanoids in power in a few years who might actually grant more latitude?

This sort of political inertia is very problematic because it takes a great deal of effort, almost a political revolution, to change.
Tough to stop a moving train.

And that evidence is like a lightning rod. The subject matter aside, you're getting two (or more) different legal answers on what to do with it then conflicting answers on investigative authority regarding what was done with it.

Oh yeah, that legal snafu and deliberate unclarity was set up under the Bush administration.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:45 PM on March 11 [3 favorites]


Also, it's strange that most headlines are reading "CIA is spying on Congress" when what's happening here is the obstruction of an investigation. There's a lot of "spy story fatigue" among readers thanks to the NSA disclosures, and not directly calling this a CIA cover-up is burying the lede. Though on second thought, maybe people also just expect the CIA to cover-up their actions...
posted by antonymous at 1:49 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Are we still pretending that the "new" Administrations are different from the "old" Administrations? Concerning torture? When talking about Bush and Obama and national security?

Let's all take a moment and remember that today is another Terror Tuesday, and our President will be identifying individuals, including American citizens, that have been cleared for targeted assassination without a chance of even seeing the charges against them, let alone the evidence.

There's a reason the CIA feels bulletproof. Obama has been executing people with "precrime" data and if it was illegal when Bush did it, it was illegal when Obama did it. So get prepared to watch absolutely nothing change about the way things are done in Washington because it will have nothing to do with what is right or what is legal. There are too many powerful people involved.
posted by deanklear at 1:51 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


READING THIS MADE MY DAY.

The only possible way the snoops are going to get throttled back is if they get caught snooping on the Petraeuses and the Feinsteins. That is what Snowden 2.0 should be doing. Pics off Obama's telephone, Hillary Clinton's e-mail's to her sidepieces, &c. It's the only way.
posted by bukvich at 1:54 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Folks arguing here about whether it's Bush or Obama to blame for CIA malfeasance are missing the more important part. It's the CIA that's to blame. And they are a persistent organization, lasting through Administrations. It's particularly frightening that they're also collecting intelligence on and tampering with documents belong to the very politicians who are supposed to be controlling them.
posted by Nelson at 1:57 PM on March 11 [4 favorites]


My money is on the CIA starting some sort of counter-spin and somehow embarrassing pictures of Senator Feinstein doing stuff with a penguin being released to the media. Or just straight-up having a bit too much to drink and wobbling out into traffic.

Or worse, caught just being normal and boring. No one would ever forgive her...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 1:58 PM on March 11


n'thing people RTF statement before commenting. This is a get the popcorn / borderline constitutional crisis level moment. Feinstein is fucking pissed, and it sure sounds like heads are going to roll:
... there is no legitimate reason to allege to the Justice Department that Senate staff may have committed a crime. I view the acting general counsel’s referral as a potential effort to intimidate this staff — and I am not taking it lightly. ...

The staff members who have been working on this study and this report have devoted years of their lives to it— wading through the horrible details of a CIA program that never, never, never should have existed. They have worked long hours and produced a report unprecedented in its comprehensive attention to detail in the history of the Senate.

They are now being threatened with legal jeopardy, just as the final revisions to the report are being made so that parts of it can be declassified and released to the American people.
posted by crayz at 2:06 PM on March 11 [10 favorites]


Worst: audio of Feinstein collaborating with Dan White in the murders of Moscone and Milk.
posted by notyou at 2:07 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]


A man who was once the lawyer for the torture unit is now the lawyer for the CIA as a whole - "The evidence is mounting that the CIA committed horrific war crimes, destroyed the evidence, and subsequently obstructed the Senate's inquiry and intimidated Senate staffers with a spurious counter-suit. We still cannot read the Senate report on a vital matter for this country's historical record and the rule of law. The CIA is obviously trying to stonewall the truth about this as long as is possible – perhaps in the hope that a GOP Senate victory this fall could bottle up the report for ever."
posted by kliuless at 2:22 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]


It makes me furious that it takes her personally being the victim of illegal surveillance to speak out.

It makes me furious too, but I think her speaking-out "credentials" are made all the more impeccable because she's such a proponent of snooping. Politicians across the aisle with diametrically opposed worldviews would dismiss her anger rather than acknowledge rare common cause if she hadn't been such a hypocrite about this.
posted by anonymisc at 3:07 PM on March 11 [3 favorites]


Since all of CIA's snooping is essentially "extracurricular", it seems to me that any policy that consists of "you can look in these corners, but not those corners" is pretty much guaranteed to fail.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:39 PM on March 11


Sorry, hit post to soon. All or nothing are the only two options that won't be abused or, at least, debatable, is what I'm saying.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:40 PM on March 11


"The evidence is mounting that the CIA committed horrific war crimes, destroyed the evidence, and subsequently obstructed the Senate's inquiry and intimidated Senate staffers with a spurious counter-suit."

Why can't those meddlesome Senators just put their big boy pants on and let the CIA do what it needs to do.
posted by homunculus at 3:47 PM on March 11


Only Nixon could go to China and only DiFi can stand up to the NSA.
posted by localroger at 3:51 PM on March 11


I wish she had been so strident about my privacy.

wutevah

/eyeroll.jpg
posted by lampshade at 5:26 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


It's particularly frightening that they're also collecting intelligence on and tampering with documents belong to the very politicians who are supposed to be controlling them.

I think that's by political design though, which is what makes it sort of ironic. Although it's the reason this sort of thing is ultimately always self-defeating.

The public existence of this sort of story, much like the retail post (as ropeladder mentioned) is a sort of subtle psychological intimidation method.

And of course, it's used to prevent resistance and undesirable behavior. But at some point the contention is over what is undesirable and the methods become a matter of course.

Which means that at any point past that it could be you against the wall next (or being investigated, refused medical treatment or employment or whatever the deniable harassment du jour is).

Heard a good story on one a bit back. There was a bad guy who was on the receiving end of this kind of thing. "Bad guy" being a useful term in this case precisely because of its over simplicity and implication of ambiguity. So he gets used to it as the cost of doing business.
So one day tons of bricks, mortar, building materials are dropped off at his place. He calls to try to get it hauled away, no go. Then a building inspector shows up and cites him. 'I'm not building anything' he says. 'Then what's all this material doing here?" the inspector says.

So now you've got the legitimate government, a building inspector, unwittingly in on harassing your target. And now the building department looks like the asshole.

The point is it's never as simple as being one guy, or group of guys or even the CIA. They're nowhere near as powerful in some ways as people think they are and they're far more powerful in other ways.

But what's really dangerous is not knowing "what's all this material doing here?" in the first place.

Y'know - and sorry to digress but it's important to the mindset of defining moments - the Kennedy assassination is blamed on the CIA, Castro, the Mob, etc.
And the evidence that Lee Harvey Oswald - despite all the stuff in his background and questions - acted alone is pretty strong. The magic bullet stuff. The timing of the shots. The marksmanship. The shooter teams using triangulation. All that - and still, it's the best theory that deals with the specific event in Dallas on Nov. 22.

Isn't it an amazing coincidence then, that shooter teams using triangulation were stopped in Chicago on Nov. 2
I mean, what are the odds? An assassination attempt that's described just like the one Oswald was supposed to be part of occurred 20 days before Dallas and some crazy guy just happens to do the shoot all by himself.
Weird.
Then the evidence like JFK's brain goes missing. Which Oswald, in all likelihood, wasn't in on.
Just strange stuff.
And yet we fixate on the minutiae surrounding Oswalds movements, the kind of rifle, the arrest, the killing of Oswald, never minding any speculation about what Oswalds trial would have looked like.
And that's what stays in our head.

What we're going to get out of this is more circumspection, no matter how spectacular it is. No matter how galvanizing the potential change. It's going to end with a whimper.

In a way that's a good thing. Because it is really true this kind of thing ultimately does more damage to itself and eats its children.
If we're lucky the building inspector gets to keep doing his job. If not, all oversight of building construction becomes suspect.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:31 PM on March 11 [4 favorites]


CIA vs NSA ... FIGHT!
posted by vicx at 5:33 PM on March 11


I was struck by the revelation that they're not sure when it happened. No source control? No document management system? Jesus.

The staffers requested lots of documents, and the CIA did a full pure data dump on them, just handing over piles and piles of documents with no context at all.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:34 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]


I have no idea how she knows or can prove what she says, and thought, offhand, that it would have been NSA rather than CIA, but if she is right, then CIA doing grave crime; if she is wrong, that is unable to prove what she asserts, she is through politically..the Attorney Gen will enter the and be in charge...
Yes. We all dislike her stand always in support of our intel agencies and their need to do what they do. And yes, a certain irony that ishe (perhaps) got spied on...But the issue is very important and suggests a secret govt within the govt acting on its own to protect itself, when in fact DF's job was to protect us against agency abuses.
posted by Postroad at 5:43 PM on March 11


Only Nixon could go to China and only DiFi can stand up to the NSA.

Except she's standing up for the NSA. It's the CIA she's taking on here.
posted by Pudhoho at 6:28 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


ArsTechnica has a good and semi-concise explanation of the mechanics of how the CIA could delete files off the investigators computers: they controlled them. So as far as I ca tell the story is

Senate: we're investigating, give us your documents.

CIA: OK but we're going to control all computer systems, on a separate network, and we're going to screen everything and try to snow you in by giving you too much stuff and not let you see a directory structure or anything.

Senate: fine, give us a couple years we'll just print the occasional gem to write our report.

CIA: Whoa how did you find that document where we admit our guilt! You were never supposed to have seen that, we're deleting it and reporting you to the DOJ because you committed a crime by looking at our crimes that we never intended to show you.

They really forced Feinstein's hand here. I guess they didn't think she'd go to bat for her employees. This must be Robert Eatinger's last stab at staying out of prison. It's an amazing gambit he made, rather than waiting for this to blow over in the press because nobody would care about further torture allegations, apparently he decided to make it into a coverup scandal, which the press loves to cover more than the wrongdoing in the first place.

We can only hope that he placed the wrong bet.
posted by Llama-Lime at 6:35 PM on March 11 [10 favorites]


One of the interesting things about being as old as I am is that hyou remember a time when
1. NSA sorted through electronic messages coming into the country and not within the country
2. The CIA spied on foreign nations and never domestically.
3. The FBI took care of domestic crimes and did not do stuff outside the nation
Things seem to have changed a bit without my having been consulted.
posted by Postroad at 6:43 PM on March 11 [3 favorites]


This from a woman who once proposed making bomb-making information illegal. Which would have banned science libraries. I find myself in favor of having her spied upon.
posted by telstar at 7:10 PM on March 11


Feinstein's statement is quite something. The comparisons to Joe Arpaio not entirely off-base. It will be interesting to see how this story unfolds.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:28 PM on March 11


That Ars piece Llama-Lime linked is great. If it's accurate, though, I think it makes this flare-up significantly less interesting. It's just a garden variety obstruction-of-justice case, CIA hiding some evidence of misconduct. And since the underlying misconduct is just torturing some bad guys, no one's going to care when this story gets unravelled. America decided years ago it was OK with being a nation of torturers.
posted by Nelson at 7:33 PM on March 11


It's just a garden variety obstruction-of-justice case

I can't agree with this. The groundless and malicious criminal complaint against the Senate staffers is what brings this to a new level.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:41 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]


it takes courage to make a serious claim like this. When people set themselves against intelligence services, their lives have a way of coming unraveled

What terrifies me is that this is being said about intelligence agencies in the USA, not in some military dictatorship somewhere that ends in yet another coup.

You know how you daydream? Every so often, I think about what it would be like to be the President. You know what I'd do my first day in office? I'd march down to the CIA and make them open the files.

Honestly, that organization needs to be burned to the ground and rebuilt. Recall or make safe any people who could be harmed, and then publish fucking everything they have. Send lawbreaking assholes to jail. Retain the expertise of the experts and start the hell over. Consolidating your enormous constellation of intelligence agencies would be a good idea too. It's just pork.

I'd also like a pony, so...

I think, unfortunately, that this will in the end go nowhere. Intelligence agencies in the USA (and in other places, don't get me wrong) have gotten 'too big to fail'; they're so pervasive and so all-powerful that there really is nothing that can be meaningfully done about them. That is a horrifying idea, that we're just trying to empty the Titanic with a teaspoon. All we can do is just slow the inevitable tide.

This from a woman who once proposed making bomb-making information illegal. Which would have banned science libraries. I find myself in favor of having her spied upon.

Either spying on citizens indiscriminately or for political gain is wrong, or it is not. The ideological stances of those being spied upon are totally irrelevant.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:48 PM on March 11 [3 favorites]


I am a Senator, I contain multitudes
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:13 PM on March 11


What did the president know and when did he know it?
posted by ADave at 9:54 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


If we'd like to continue to be a free country, the entirety of the "Homeland Security" and Intelligence apparatuses have to be destroyed root and branch, then created anew as something suitable for a republican form of government.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:03 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]


the entirety of the "Homeland Security" and Intelligence apparatuses have to be destroyed root and branch--ob1quixote

Considering about $650 billion has been spent on "Homeland Security" since 2001, I agree.
Susan Crawford in "Captive Audience" estimates that it would cost about $90 billion to wire every house and apartment with a fiber optic connection to the Internet. Instead, we are going broke spying on ourselves.
posted by eye of newt at 10:55 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


What did the president know and when did he know it?

A) Everything he needed to know,

and

B) July 2008 near as I can tell. When he flip-flopped on Unlawful Domestic Surveillance.
posted by mikelieman at 6:02 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


If this becomes the Obama show, the CIA gets a pass. Considering what we've learned over the last 20 years about the kinds of things the CIA has been doing around the world without the knowledge or consent of the American people to erode trust in the US and actively undermine America's commitment to democratic principles (from toppling democratically-elected gov'ts in Chile and Iran and supporting dictators like Saddam Hussein to creating a secret prison system and in some cases torturing detainees on evidence no more substantial than hearsay), isn't it about time the CIA got a closer look?
posted by saulgoodman at 6:25 AM on March 12


No pass. This is like Christie - even if it wasn't on his say so he can't be allowed to run an executive branch that gets up to this shit. It's Nixonian malice or negligent incompetence.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:39 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


Okay, but regardless, what's actually going to happen in the real world if this story becomes focused too much on the President is that the very same interests in Washington who actively supported torture and the expansion of the surveillance state in the first place will use it as an opportunity to win points in presidential politics and the underlying system will remain completely unchallenged, and will probably even be further legitimized and solidified into SOP by the next guy. Sure, Obama's not off-the-hook, but the CIA's been doing things Americans should be extremely concerned about for a hell of a lot longer than he or even his predecessor have been in office. It'd be a shame if the opportunity to give those longer-term, deeper structural issues a meaningful, serious public hearing passed us by yet again, like it ultimately did in the aftermath of the Church committee reports.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:53 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]


I think it will be very difficult for the scandal to go much higher than Director Brennen. It seems really unlikely that Obama or his Chief of Staff or NSC folks would have known or authorized this.
posted by humanfont at 8:01 AM on March 12


the entirety of the "Homeland Security" and Intelligence apparatuses have to be destroyed root and branch

What's odd too is the name. "Homeland Security." Does that not strike everyone as f'ing Orwellian?
Remember the Total Information Awareness program? A giant pyramid staring with some sort of light beam at the entire Earth? Like, what, that's a completely innocent image? 'Oh, sorry, we went to Dartmouth but we had no idea of the historical and symbolic significance of the pyramid much less the implications of oppression inherent in the design. Huh.'

It's not just the actions. I mean, yeah the CIA has been running dirty tricks for decades. But there's been this shift in the conceptualization. Not just in mass surveillance, but everything to do with security and patriotism.
Even during the McCarthy era, if the government was routing out Communists and decided to call their outfit the Secret State Police and had a double lightning bolt for their symbol you'd have guys from the John Birch Society asking WTF they were doing.

And indeed, mass surveillance, government encroachment on civil liberties, has been a political bone of contention for decades. PRISM. PROMIS (back when Inslaw was a thing), Echelon - which is awesome & hilarious to read about in retrospect, especially Op-Eds around 1987-90 (Mike Frost then was a bit like Snowden, but y'know, more ignored).

It was just swell with the democrats when Clinton was in office. And the bad guys were the tinfoil hat militiamen and their deluded ramblings about the government monitoring everyone. Then it was just fine with the republicans when Bush was in office. In fact, more than fine, and everyone who opposed it was a terrorist or sympathizer or nutcase.

It's like a dog chasing its tail. You can't hang a political shade on it. Otherwise we're back to playing the same game and being distracted by the interests behind the scenes.

Not that I expect anything to change. We rely too much on the media to frame this stuff for us, mentally, and retreads are in their interest. I mean, wow, Snowden, yeah. Anyone remember Eric Lichtblau saying pretty much exactly the same thing in 2005? Won a pulitzer for it? William Binney? Anyone? Bueller?

Was there some question this wasn't introduced in a number of forms before the fact? The stated purpose of TIA was data mining and profiling. The only reason the two-step dance of monitoring information traffic that goes overseas instead of directly glomming onto what comes out of your wall socket was developed was because of the 1974 privacy act. And that was a result of what the community was looking at doing in 1965.

So ya think they'd have come up with a way to two-step oversight in the past 40 years, say by using private contractors who aren't subject to government agency restrictions?

This is an old, old dance. Almost silly to call it a scandal. A step in the right direction for Congress though.
Our Congress has, for decades, abdicated its responsibilities to oversee a number of executive functions. Hell, we've pretty much just checked out of the declaring war business.

After years of ignoring paper training, our dog craps on the floor and we're up in arms because it's too big to cover with the throw rug anymore. So then it becomes mom blaming dad, dad blaming the kids, yadda yadda.

We do need a stem to stern overhaul of our intelligence agencies but that's going to be useless without changing the responsibilities Congress has in oversight and leadership and enforcing the ones the currently have.
Is there any question, particularly on war powers, they've pretty much been phoning it in the past 50-60 years?
posted by Smedleyman at 8:27 AM on March 12 [7 favorites]


I think it will be very difficult for the scandal to go much higher than Director Brennen. It seems really unlikely that Obama or his Chief of Staff or NSC folks would have known or authorized this.

I'm pretty sure that's why EO 12333 exists. Plus, Brennan knows where bodies are buried (Anwar Awlaki, Gul Rahman, et al), not to mention what Eatinger knows, so the likelihood of either of these crooks taking the fall for the President's crooked authorizations is going to take some real determination on the part of Feinstein and Leahy to overcome Mike Rogers, Mikulski, etc. Frankly, I'm not confident that they're capable of effecting real change here.
posted by rhizome at 10:39 AM on March 12


Why Won't Senator Feinstein Call Torture Torture?
posted by jeffburdges at 10:42 AM on March 12


he can't be allowed to run an executive branch that gets up to this shit.

The presumption that The President is "running things", rather than "being handled" himself like any other asset might not be accurate. Bill Hicks did this thing about Bill Clinton's presidential briefing on the Kennedy assassination. Funny stuff...
posted by mikelieman at 6:55 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]


Dana Milbank: Allegations of CIA spying on the Senate deserve investigation
If the White House wishes to repair the damage, it would declassify without further delay the report done by Feinstein's committee — along with the Panetta Review. If the White House won't, Feinstein's panel and others would be justified in holding up CIA funding and nominations and conducting public hearings.

Obama also should remove those people involved in spying on the Senate panel and in harassing Senate staffers. First out should be Robert Eatinger, the CIA's acting general counsel. Previously, Eatinger had been a lawyer in the unit that conducted the interrogation program at the heart of the Senate's probe. Eatinger, Feinstein said, filed a "crimes report" with the Justice Department suggesting that congressional staffers had stolen the Panetta Review.
The CIA Forces A Constitutional Crisis, Ctd
Then there's a veiled threat – gleefully touted by Eli Lake – that the CIA could retaliate against a sitting president by leaking information to try and damage him...

Just take a moment to ponder that empirical prediction. It assumes that the CIA is an entity independent of the president, who is the head of the executive branch. It assumes that the CIA will act against the president if it feels exposed or slighted. Nothing could more baldy illustrate the desperate need to cut this anti-democratic and anti-constitutional power-center down to size. When an agency lies to the White House over torture, when it spies on the Senate investigating its torture program, it has become a rogue threat to our political system. I fear that Obama's pusillanimity on accountability for war crimes has merely emboldened them to further illegality...

If the CIA has finally forced one of its most tenacious defenders over the years to the kind of speech she gave yesterday, it is clearly out of bounds and our of control. Only the president can rein it in. The question is: will he? And does the CIA have the potential to humiliate or undermine him if he does?
White House won't enter CIA row - "Obama distances himself from fierce dispute between top senators and CIA over report into use of torture in post-9/11 interrogations..."
posted by kliuless at 7:11 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]


Jon Stewart Tears Into Dem Sen. Feinstein for CIA Spying Hypocrisy
posted by homunculus at 8:40 PM on March 12 [3 favorites]


I'm sure I'm being naive, but I really feel like this could turn into something. The one thing Senators will not tolerate is being made to look like assholes.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:56 PM on March 12


It is insanely shortsighted to call out a major elected official for hypocrisy when changing their position with poise, elegance and power in the face of indisputable fact. Yeah she was wrong - what, you want her to eat shit and cry? Screw that. I want her to take up a baseball-bat wrapped with barbed-wire and go after the fuckers who snowed her and then thought they could bully her, and I will cheer her on.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:15 PM on March 12 [7 favorites]


It's all fun and games until the CIA taps the senate's computers
posted by jeffburdges at 2:00 AM on March 13


Ya gotta love that George Carlin homage by Jon Stewart.   Also, I'm happy to see Feinstein, etc. called out hypocrisy because that increase our chances that they'll dump the defense contractors and support privacy more broadly.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:48 AM on March 13


CIA Director Tries To Release His Side Of The Senate Spying Scandal; Actually Confirms Feinstein's Accusations
posted by jeffburdges at 3:04 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


White House won't enter CIA row - "Obama distances himself from fierce dispute between top senators and CIA over report into use of torture in post-9/11 interrogations..."

The White House has been withholding torture documents from the SSCI for unspecified reasons. In addition, they were informed of the criminal investigation against SSCI staff. Presumably they had foreknowledge of this whole crisis -- Udall indicates this in his letter to Obama.

It seems that Obama is with the CIA on this one, unless that stance becomes too embarrassing. We can only hope.
posted by grobstein at 6:06 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]


-Is Obama A Phony On Torture?
-Time for Obama to declassify the Senate report on torture
posted by kliuless at 10:32 AM on March 13 [4 favorites]


An update to something I posted upthread: FISA court reverses order to destroy NSA phone data
posted by homunculus at 7:09 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


Can the president fire Eatinger? Not all executive branch positions are at the pleasure of the President right?
posted by humanfont at 7:15 PM on March 13


I think he can but it's irrelevant, among other reasons because the Senate just confirmed someone to replace Eatinger (who is acting, not permanent, GC).
posted by grobstein at 7:20 AM on March 14


From Marcy Wheeler at The Intercept: The White House Has Been Covering Up the Presidency’s Role in Torture for Years
posted by Going To Maine at 7:40 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


No Escaping Dragnet Nation
posted by homunculus at 10:49 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


Charles Pierce: Obama, The CIA, And The Limits Of Conciliation
posted by homunculus at 6:58 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


US defends intelligence practices after UN panel requests torture report. Investigation of the CIA spy program is part of a two-day examination of US human rights record
posted by homunculus at 4:07 PM on March 15


What really sucks about Obama's attempting to deal with the US torture policies by sweeping them under the rug is that it makes our political system complicit in an ongoing way. If we can't actually actually acknowledge and openly address abuses of our system from within the system (because politics) then our system itself is incapable of correcting itself and becomes an ongoing party to the crimes. America loses all moral credibility because it's still actively working to cover up its past crimes. I really would have hoped Obama would get that, but either he doesn't or he still just doesn't have the moral/political courage to do the right thing and allow for a full public airing of the facts.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:00 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


And Nancy Pelosi says that legislators are scared of the CIA:
Pelosi added that she has always fought for checks and balances on CIA activity and its interactions with Congress: “You don’t fight it without a price because they come after you and they don’t always tell the truth.
Via TechDirt. Both are worth reading.
posted by straw at 11:37 AM on March 17 [4 favorites]


Obama Administration Transparency Getting Worse (/.)
posted by jeffburdges at 3:34 PM on March 17


Inside the Senate report on CIA interrogations
posted by homunculus at 11:34 AM on March 18


It'd be a shame if the opportunity to give those longer-term, deeper structural issues a meaningful, serious public hearing passed us by yet again, like it ultimately did in the aftermath of the Church committee reports.

Former Church Committee Counsel and Staffers Call on Congress to Create Modern Day Church Committee
posted by homunculus at 3:32 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Dianne Feinstein Still A Believer In Collecting All Phone Records; Pretends That Such Collection Has Stopped Terrorists
posted by homunculus at 12:17 PM on March 23 [2 favorites]


Small Drones Are a Bigger Privacy Threat Than the NSA, Says Senate Intel Chair
posted by homunculus at 11:44 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]


There is no bigger privacy threat than the NSA because the NSA is big enough to spy on everyone, but small drone have the potential to observe influential targets, like polluters, police assaulting protestors, etc., so obviously she wants them curtailed.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:52 AM on March 24 [4 favorites]


In other news: NSA, FBI, DIA Sued over Refusal to Disclose U.S. Role in Imprisonment of Nelson Mandela
posted by homunculus at 10:02 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


A Debate on Torture: Legal Architect of CIA Secret Prisons, Rendition vs. Human Rights Attorney
posted by homunculus at 9:27 AM on March 28


New Senate Intelligence Report Nails C.I.A. for Lying About Torture
posted by homunculus at 11:53 AM on April 1 [1 favorite]


If you're wondering why people in the know got so upset at the 2012 film Zero Dark Thirty, with its depiction of haunted but well-meaning patriots pushing moral boundaries in pursuit of actionable intelligence, this is your answer. The movie portrayed torture as a necessary evil, when in fact it was more like a warped fraternity ritual—or a crime ring.

THANK YOU!
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:57 AM on April 1 [3 favorites]


Charles Pierce: The Damning New Torture Report Shows The CIA Doing What It's Always Done
posted by homunculus at 12:33 PM on April 1 [2 favorites]


Senate Report Says CIA Repeatedly Lied About The Fact That Its Torture Efforts Were Useless In Finding Bin Laden
posted by jeffburdges at 3:25 PM on April 1 [1 favorite]


That's a rather unfortunately phrased headline.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:00 AM on April 3 [2 favorites]


SSCI votes 11-3 to release CIA interrogation report

Just the executive summary, but it's a start.
posted by rhizome at 12:24 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


The Only Way We'll Really Learn About The CIA's Torture Program Is If Someone Leaks The Report
posted by homunculus at 9:09 PM on April 7 [2 favorites]


From The National Journal:
McCain... elaborated on an event that was reported Monday by The Post, noting that officials waterboarding a terror suspect reported to CIA headquarters that they had "gotten everything we can out of the guy."

"The message came back, 'Waterboard him some more.' That is unconscionable," McCain said.

posted by Going To Maine at 6:17 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


How that order wasn't a criminal act is unfathomable to me.
posted by humanfont at 12:42 PM on April 9


It is criminal. All the torture orders are criminal. Just because no one will prosecute doesn't make the act legal.
posted by Nelson at 1:24 PM on April 9 [3 favorites]


Don't forget that John Kiriakou got 30 months in prison while all the torturers walked.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:21 PM on April 9 [4 favorites]


Torture, The CIA, And How We Lost Our Herd Immunity
posted by homunculus at 5:41 PM on April 9


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