Unfortunately, my prediction that we might be seeing the beginning of the end of the unholy alliance between a handful of top Congressional leaders and the national security apparatus has been proven very naive. I thought that the likes of California Senator Dianne Feinstein might have been sufficiently stung by the revelation that the rogue intelligence agencies they had long protected lied not only to the public and to “ordinary” Congressional representatives, but also to those who thought they were part of the magic circle.
Indeed, Feinstein sounded rather distraught when she learned that there was an additional inner ring of spying and lying to which even she was never privy. But now, perhaps having had a “heart to heart” with Lyin’ James Clapper (Director of National Intelligence), Feinstein is back to doing what she’s always done best...the bidding of the national security industry.
The Guardian describes how Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and a noted neoconservative, is pushing a bill designed to derail serious reform of our rogue intelligence agencies. According to the Guardian, her bill “would both make permanent a loophole permitting the NSA to search for Americans’ identifying information without a warrant—and, civil libertarians fear, contains an ambiguity that might allow the FBI, the DEA and other law enforcement agencies to do the same thing”.
Feinstein is acting in what is a grand American tradition, recently documented by Jay Feldman in his book Manufacturing Hysteria: a History of Scapegoating, Surveillance, and Secrecy in Modern America (Pantheon, 2011). Like those who used fearmongering to attack workers, migrants, and political dissenters in the past, Feinstein is working to manipulate evidence to make false claims about spying programs, hoping that the fear that she and others have inculcated in the public will deaden our ability to think critically about the claims she and the military-intelligence complex are making.
It is often asserted that civil liberty and national security sit on opposite ends of a spectrum, and that to move away from one is to move towards the other. This is the model Feinstein espouses when she asks the public to give up its liberties so that the same security agencies which have told lies, helped to launch illegal wars, and used methods of terror, can amass further power—power which their track record suggests they will very likely misuse.
In reality, the protection of civil liberties, and the transparency which such protection demands, is a far better guarantee of our safety than the casual abdication of our rights and responsibilities that Feinstein relentlessly advocates. She and the other politicians who carry water for the rogue intelligence agencies would like us to give up our right to so much as know what our security agencies are doing in our name, no less criticise or regulate those actions. They would like us to take their word for why we must give up our liberties and subject our lives to scrutiny on the premise that the people whose behaviour created a “terrorist” threat in the first place are best suited to managing that threat.
If the actions and the bases for the actions of our national security apparatus—whether domestic spying, kidnapping, torturing, practising rendition, murdering, waging aggressive war—were forced to withstand full public scrutiny, I would like to think that our government would no longer be able to behave in a way that so obviously contravenes the interest of its citizens. Greater liberty and transparency would, in other words, lead to a more genuine security, in which we would be protected by the character of our republic rather than the dark legions of our empire.
But achieving this kind of security will be an uphill task in the face of relentless opposition from the security agencies which thrive on what Feldman called “manufactured hysteria”, particularly when they are protected by the likes of Dianne Feinstein and her fellow-travellers, themselves a national security threat.