Some Questions for Senator Dianne Feinstein:
There's a question or two the Rude Pundit would ask Senator Dianne Feinstein if ever given a chance at some DC soiree (note: The Rude Pundit has never been invited to a DC soiree; indeed, the number of actual soirees he has attended is quite low). Feinstein, who has been a staunch defender of the National Security Agency's wide-net intelligence gathering on Americans, was nigh on apoplectic yesterday attacking the CIA for supposedly hacking into Senate computers to search for and take back documents the spy agency didn't want the Senate to have as it worked on a massive report about CIA interrogation techniques during the "war" on "terror." Or, you now, the torture stuff.
Feinstein dragged the CIA out onto the floor of the Senate and kicked its ass all over the chamber. She tried to solve things quietly and internally when she first heard of what amounts to spying on Senate computers. "However," she said yesterday, "the increasing amount of inaccurate information circulating now cannot be allowed to stand unanswered." Slipping on her metal-toed Doc Martens, Feinstein bruised a whole bunch o' asses: "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."
See, the CIA had given Senate investigators access to documents, which Senate staffers copied onto their computers (or printed out). While searching through these documents, the investigators came across "the Internal Panetta Review," the CIA's own report on how badly its agents fucked up detainees. Thing is, the Senate wasn't supposed to get that document. No one knows how - Feinstein says it could have even been a whistleblower, an Edward Snowden-type, perhaps, although he's a "traitor," according to Feinstein - but the CIA wanted it back, maybe so it could destroy it, like it did the videotapes of illegal interrogations.
Think about this for just a second, shall we? In order to search the files on the computer network, the CIA probably had to download all the names of the files, the dates they were uploaded, the size. It wouldn't be wrong to call that "metadata" - information about information. And, scanning the metadata, the CIA got the specific hit it was looking for and acted upon it. Haystack, needle, no?
Back in October of last year, Feinstein wrote in USA Today (motto: "Yeah, we can't believe USA Today is still here, either") about the NSA's phone record sweep, "The overwhelming majority of records are never reviewed before being destroyed, but it is necessary for the NSA to obtain 'the haystack' of records in order to find the terrorist 'needle.'" The rest of the editorial is about how useful all that metadata is because, trust her, it's useful.
So the questions the Rude Pundit has are these: Sen. Feinstein, what if the CIA said that it was searching the Senate's computers in order to stop terrorism? What if it said it couldn't discuss the reason why? What if it said that telling you why it was searching would compromise national security? Would you back down? Would you say that it's okay if it's being done for such noble reasons? Would you automatically trust their actions?
Of course, there's a certain level of absurdity here. Feinstein has the kind of security clearance, as the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to see most of the shit the rest of us can't. But the CIA is attempting to protect its ass from the avalanche of criticism and condemnation and legislation that would hopefully come about in the wake of the torture report's release (or at least a fuckin' summary, since it's 6300 pages). It's doing things to justify its existence. What do you think the NSA is doing by casting an immense net and hoping it gets a tuna among the trash?
(And, above everything else, tell us what Americans did to detainees. Christ, the past isn't the past until it is confronted.)