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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

 
A program run amok

by digby

There are lots of people wondering just what got into Dianne Feinstein that has her suddenly all hot and bothered over the NSA revelations (which, up until now, she's defended to the hilt.)
One of the National Security Agency's biggest defenders in Congress is suddenly at odds with the agency and calling for a top-to-bottom review of U.S. spy programs. And her long-time friends and allies are completely mystified by the switch.

"We're really screwed now," one NSA official told The Cable. "You know things are bad when the few friends you've got disappear without a trace in the dead of night and leave no forwarding address."

In a pointed statement issued today, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Dianne Feinstein said she was "totally opposed" to gathering intelligence on foreign leaders and said it was "a big problem" if President Obama didn't know the NSA was monitoring the phone calls of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She said the United States should only be spying on foreign leaders with hostile countries, or in an emergency, and even then the president should personally approve the surveillance.

It's interesting she's putting it in those terms when just about everyone else is rolling their eyes at the idea the US is any different than all the other countries who spy on their allies. (Well, no different except the trillion dollar surveillance program that dwarfs anything anyone in the rest of the world could possibly have.)

I think the problem here is that the political defenders, perhaps including the president as well, are finally recognizing that they are dealing with a rogue agency. A rogue agency that is spying on heads of state apparently without permission. Which means it might be spying on anybody without permission. Like Senators maybe. Or Presidents.

I always thought it odd that the first statement the president made after the initial Snowden leaks were made public included this odd little aside:

But my observation is, is that the people who are involved in America’s national security, they take this work very seriously. They cherish our Constitution. The last thing they’d be doing is taking programs like this to listen to somebody’s phone calls.

And by the way, with respect to my concerns about privacy issues, I will leave this office at some point, sometime in the last — next 3 1/2 years, and after that, I will be a private citizen. And I suspect that, you know, on — on a list of people who might be targeted, you know, so that somebody could read their emails or — or listen to their phone calls, I’d probably be pretty high on that list. So it’s not as if I don’t have a personal interest in making sure my privacy is protected.

But I know that the people who are involved in these programs — they operate like professionals. And these things are very narrowly circumscribed. They’re very focused. And in the abstract, you can complain about Big Brother and how this is a potential, you know — you know, program run amok. But when you actually look at the details, then I think we’ve struck the right balance.
I had guessed he was talking about that story that an NSA operative have read Bill Clinton's emails and he felt that issue had been properly dealt with. But it was still a little bit bizarre that he'd use the word "targeted" or even bring it up at all.

Now, you have to wonder --- if he really didn't know about Merkel, what else doesn't he know about?

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