Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Dianne Feinstein is a Security Threat

California’s senior Senator, Dianne Feinstein, is proud to be a national security hawk.

Feinstein is amongst those whose behaviour most threatens our country’s security and the public’s interests.  Whether it’s supporting the war of aggression waged against Iraq by the Bush administration, pressuring the Obama administration to escalate our wars in Pakistan and Afghanistan, egging on the generals whose egos rather than good sense keeps us bogged down in military quagmires, or defending the abuses of our growing and irresponsible security state, Feinstein is at the forefront of the erosion of civil liberties and the militarisation of our foreign policy.

Her commitment to keeping us locked into a dangerous and counter-productive war of terror, fought on an undefined number of fronts using methods of barbarism means that more U.S. citizens, at home and abroad, will be victims of violence as those on the receiving end of U.S. colonial wars fight back.

Like the administration whose war on Iraq she supported, Feinstein is not averse to trashing the truth in defending the security state.  She has repeatedly invoked the plot to bomb the New York subway, arguing that the NSA’s surveillance thwarted this plot.  Over two months ago, this claim was reported to be untrue, but that hasn’t stopped Feinstein repeating it. 

So entrenched is Feinstein’s position as the security service’s Senate mudslinger that no revelations about the abuse or dishonesty built into the surveillance programmes can move her radar.  So when it was revealed that , contrary to its claims, the NSA has violated the law on thousands of occasions in the course of its spying, Feinstein defended the agency, arguing that none of these abuses were “intentionally” committed for “inappropriate purposes”.

But given that she’s earlier admitted that she’s “not a high-techie” and doesn’t understand how the NSA prevents its employees from spying on Americans, it’s difficult to understand how she can be so sure that the NSA acts in good faith.  Perhaps James “pants on fire” Clapper told her.  After all, after Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, lied to Senator Ron Wyden repeatedly about the extent of NSA spying, Feinstein maintained that “there is no more direct or honest person than Jim Clapper”.  

Feinstein’s argument all along has been that she and her colleagues provide rigorous oversight of the NSA’s spying.  But it turns out that she didn’t even read the full 2012 report which outlined the extent of law-breaking within the intelligence community until the existence of the report was made public last week in U.S. and British newspapers.  Of course if she had read it, that’s no guarantee that she would have made its existence public, or offered any scrutiny.  Her House colleague, Mike Rogers, did see the report, but couldn’t be bothered to do anything about it, and appears to have withheld the document before Congressional representatives voted on the Patriot Act. 

Feinstein criticised Edward Snowden for not revealing as much about the restraints on the NSA as he did about its abuses.  But we have been learning more about these since, and we are coming to understand that they simply do not work.

In the first place, Feinstein and her colleagues on the intelligence committees have failed repeatedly in their oversight role, in which they have shown a willingness to bend evidence to provide examples of NSA “successes”.  Secondly, it has been revealed that the FISA courts, providing a veneer of legality to an otherwise Stasi-like process, don’t actually work.  Those courts, like the public and our representatives, must take known liars like Clapper at their word when making judgments, and don’t actually see much of the evidence on which they base their judgments.  Finally, we work within a social and political context within a society which at least likes to think of itself as retaining some trappings of a democracy.  This means that it’s not good enough to run wars, what amount to programmes of state terrorism, or massive spy programmes on the say-so of Dianne Feinstein. 

Some of her more critically-minded colleagues have said that the NSA lawbreaking we now know about is merely “the tip of the iceberg”, but absurdly, they cannot expound on what they know because the classified nature of the information prevents them! 

I don’t think that Feinstein (unlike some of her colleagues) is lazy.  I think she’s just arrogant and complacent.  In California, she’s not used to being challenged.  When she runs for re-elections she refuses to debate her opponents, and treats campaigning and responding to public inquiries like a nuisance.

Senator Feinstein’s disdain for scrutiny and oversight were on full display when she was initially confronted with evidence of the NSA’s abuses.  “It’s called defending America”, she harrumphed.  Well, call me crazy, but if to defend a country’s national security you have to dismantle its laws and reassemble them such that they begin to resemble an embryonic police state, maybe there’s something about our national security apparatus—rather than laws that actually protect the public—that needs to be changed.  If to defend that national security you need to apply state terrorism and wage aggressive wars, it seems like a sure sign that our definition of security is the problem rather than the solution.

Too many members of our political leadership subscribes to an immoral and self-interested sense of what constitutes the national interest.  Their dangerously entrenched conventional wisdom is defended at every turn by ossified political specimens like Feinstein. 

In the twilight of an unremarkable career, Feinstein is finally making a mark by positioning herself with the authoritarian right-wing in the United States, defending the assault on our civil liberties by an intelligence apparatus which has been known to break the law and commit acts of terrorism.  She is an embarrassment to California and more importantly, a threat to the public. 

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