Don’t Mess With Dianne

I realize that it’s fashionable on the netroots left to dismiss Senator Dianne Feinstein as a lap dog of the intelligence community. That’s a misreading of Senator Feinstein who, whatever her flaws, is nobody’s stooge. I will always think of her as the Mayor who helped San Francisco recover from the twin blows of Jonestown and the Milk/Moscone assassinations. (For a brilliant account of that era, check out David Talbot’s Season of the Witch.) I’d also like to point out that she’s been consistently opposed to torture. She’s not perfect but this is one tough lady, y’all, and nobody’s doormat. She has a long fuse but when she blows up, she blows up big time:

How do you spy on a spy? In the case of Senate investigators, you do it by adopting some of their methods. During the five year investigation into the CIA interrogation and detention program, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, working in a windowless room at the spy agency’s headquarters, suspected that key documents had been removed from their computer network. Luckily, they had a hard copy. To keep it from being destroyed, Senate sleuths spirited the document from the CIA and put it in a safe in the Hart Senate Office Building. The move set off a chain of events that broke open on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the intelligence committee, accused the CIA of spying on her investigators. CIA Director John Brennan insists the CIA isn’t trying to thwart her investigations. The Justice Department is now conducting two inquiries: one looking into whether the CIA illegally snooped on congressional investigators and another looking into whether those investigators broke the law. The accusations include lying to Congress and to the Justice Department, and spying on congressional investigators to hide what the CIA was doing.

It’s a mark of how far gone the CIA is that they’ve blown it with one of their key Congressional allies. I realize that there’s a bit of hypocrisy involved in this episode viz the Senate being outraged over being treated like ordinary people, BUT it’s starting to look like another Church Committee may be required to deal with the lingering questions about torture during the so-called war on terror.I think Charlie Pierce, as usual, nails it:

Yes, it is easy to argue, as Edward Snowden, international man of luggage, did, that Feinstein was remarkably blithe about the NSA’s program to snoop on almost everyone, but that she is now outraged because the Senate staff has been targeted by another intelligence agency. But that is missing the point by the width of the Volga. (Equally lame are any storiesthat waste our time talking about the internal politics of the Senate.) The point is the report and the point is torture and the point is the absolute right of the American people to know the full history of what was done in our name. Every horrible bit of it. Keeping that report secret is nothing more than allowing the cancer with which the Avignon Presidency infected the government to further metastasize, and to cover the asses of the criminals who committed the crimes. What this controversy needs is another Otis Pike, another Dan Schorr. What it needs, seriously, is its own Edward Snowden.

Instead of attacking Feinstein, CIA Director Brennan would be advised to take a chill pill and stop messing with Dianne. She’s a powerful ally but when you’re on her wrong side, watch out.

7 thoughts on “Don’t Mess With Dianne

  1. And yet, in a, what, eleven-page statement, could not bring herself to say the t-word.
    Nothing she’s done to date indicates anything but pronounced deference to the Almighty, National Security, and she’s only now complaining, to my mind, in large part because the CIA had the temerity to treat her, her colleagues and her staff like little people.
    That may be construed as pique, not righteous fury, to some.
    I hope you’re right, but I don’t have my hopes up. Marcy Wheeler lays out all the constraints on her doing much of substance here.

  2. Suppose that Director Brennan takes your advice and ‘takes a chill pill’, then what? Does Senator Feinstein then reciprocate by finding a way (and they do have several) to bury the report for another bunch of years? How does that make things better?
    Senator Feinstein can easily follow Senator Gravel’s example and read the report into the Congressional Record, it is a protected action under the Speech and Debate clause. She has so many options available, which is why her temper tantrum seems like so much petty grandstanding than exercising oversight.

  3. @Montag: I’d call it institutional pique rather than personal.
    @Jerry: I’m on record as believing the report should be made public as soon as possible. Brennan made a very big mistake in underestimating Feinstein. I am very interested in seeing how this all plays out.

  4. I’ll reserve belief until I see it. Because right now, after years of investigation, document sifting, report-writing, and all this other stuff, I don’t see a report, I don’t hear about indictments for crimes against humanity and nobody appears to have lost his job (well, except for Snowden, Kiriakou and Manning).
    I have heard a lot of balloon juice about freedom and working through channels and keeping America safe. Talk is notoriously cheap.

  5. I agree that it’s time to put up or shut. I was, in part, stirring the pot with this post but I stand by what I said about Feinstein’s handling of the post-murder situation.

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