Tag Archive: Diane Feinstein

Jul 26 2012

Plugging Intelligence Leaks or How to Cover Up War Crimes

The Senate Intelligence Committee passed an intelligence authorization bill, Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. The bill, co-sponsored by the chair of the committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), passed the committee by a vote of 14 – 1 would:

[..] authorize intelligence funding to counter terrorist threats, prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, enhance counterintelligence, conduct covert actions and collect and analyze intelligence around the globe. [..]

The legislation includes a title on preventing unauthorized disclosures of classified information to improve the government’s ability to prevent and detect unauthorized disclosures that harm national security and investigate and punish those responsible. [..]

The approved bill includes a series of provisions to prevent leaks, including:

   

  • A requirement the executive branch notifies Congress when making certain authorized disclosures of intelligence information to the public;
  • A requirement for the Director of National Intelligence to improve the process for conducting administrative leaks investigations, including a requirement to proactively identify leaks and take administrative action when necessary;
  • A restriction on the number of intelligence community employees authorized to communicate with the media;
  • A provision to improve non-disclosure agreements and the penalties for non-compliance;
  • A prohibition on current and former intelligence officials entering into certain contracts with media organizations;
  • A report from the attorney general on possible improvements to the criminal process for investigating and prosecuting leaks; and
  • A provision to improve the intelligence community’s ability to detect insider threats.

The bill was a response to the recent high level leaks about cyber warfare against Iran, Obama’s “kill list” and a CIA underwear bomb plot sting operation in Yemen that Sen. Feinstein said came from the White House. A good portion of the bill is directed at curbing “leaks” that come from intelligence employees who talk to the media either with or without the permission of the White House. The details of these restrictions are vague and ill defined, as Kevin Gosztola at FDL points out:

Would the “number of intelligence community employees” be limited by establishing guidelines that prohibited lower level employees from talking with news organizations? Would it cut back on the number of individuals, who could speak in an official capacity about intelligence operations?

What exactly does the intelligence committee mean by “contract”? Is getting an intelligence official’s approval to put comments on the record a “contract”? Then there’s the part about this applying to “former intelligence officials” as well as “current” officials. Would this put limits on what people like NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake would be able to say publicly because they might share information that would reveal details on matters “sensitive” to national security? Would the “number of intelligence community employees” be limited by establishing guidelines that prohibited lower level employees from talking with news organizations? Would it cut back on the number of individuals, who could speak in an official capacity about intelligence operations?

What exactly does the intelligence committee mean by “contract”? Is getting an intelligence official’s approval to put comments on the record a “contract”? Then there’s the part about this applying to “former intelligence officials” as well as “current” officials. Would this put limits on what people like NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake would be able to say publicly because they might share information that would reveal details on matters “sensitive” to national security? [..]

Truth be told, Sen. Feinstein’s motives are not all that altruistic since she has a vested interest in the national security state which has enriched her and her military contractor husband. Nor is she interested in the original purpose for the creation of the Intelligence Committee. Created in the wake of the intelligence abuses discovered by the Church Committee in the mid-1970s, committee’s intent was to “provide vigilant legislative oversight over the intelligence activities of the United States to assure that such activities are in conformity with the Constitution and laws of the United States.” But, as Glenn Greenwald noted the Senator from California, who Greenwald says embodies the species of blatant corruption, has no interest in that but in fact does the opposite:

(S]he unyieldingly devotes herself to fortifying the wall of secrecy behind which the intelligence community operates, protecting whatever they do from accountability, and punishing anyone who impedes it.

Along those lines, one of Feinstein’s prime causes over the last several years has been to increase even further the extreme secrecy regime behind which the federal government operates, and to demand harsh punishment for whistleblowers. At the end of 2010, she demanded that the DOJ prosecute Julian Assange and WikiLeaks for violations of the Espionage Act of 1917, and earlier this month issued the same demand to an Australian newspaper, using a rationale that would apply every bit as much to The New York Times (inded a rationale that is now being applied by many in Washington to call for prosecutions of newspapers). Even though the Obama administration has prosecuted twice as many leakers for espionage as all previous administrations combined, Feinstein continues to go on Fox News and call for still more leak prosecutions.

This month, she joined with the most right-wing members of the House to demand investigations into recent leaks to the media (though because it’s White House officials who are the leakers – rather than Army Private-nobodies or obscure mid-level NSA employees – she notably refused to endorse any criminal prosecutions: only harmless Congressional ones). Yesterday, she pointed out the obvious – that at least some of these most controversial recent leaks come “from the ranks” of the Obama White House – and “said her committee would meet Tuesday to craft legislation that would address the leaks of classified information, including additional authorities and rules to stop the leaks”: in other words, enact new laws to strengthen the government’s secrecy power still further and permit still easier punishment for leakers.

In June, commemorating the 40th anniversary of Watergate, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein appeared on “Face the Nation” and warned against a McCarthey-esque “witch hunt” that is about to break out in Congress:

“You’ve got to be very careful about creating a witch hunt for sources and a witch hunt in which you go after reporters, because now more than ever we need real reporting on this presidency, on national security, on all these areas, and the press is not the problem here,” Bernstein said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“We’ve got plenty of laws, and if somebody inside is doing things with real national security secrets that he ought not, or she ought not, to be doing in terms of giving them to the press, that’s one thing,” he added. [..]

“It’s very difficult – I know from doing stories like this where you’re dealing with sensitive government secrets — to modulate and be careful and at the same time hold the government accountable for what they’re doing,” Woodward said. “This is an area that needs to be handled with great delicacy, and I’m not sure we have a political system that knows how to do anything with great delicacy.”

Bernstein noted that the press has generally handled sensitive information carefully in the past.

Sen. Feinstein, along with her right wing cohorts, has accomplished creating that legislation which would embody that “McCathy-esque witch hunt” that would jeopardize our civil liberties in the name of national security and Sen. Feinstein’s self interests.  

Jul 03 2012

The 1st Amendemnt v United States Government

The past Sunday constitutional lawyer and contributing editor at Salon.com Glenn Greenwald appeared with Chris Hayes on MSNBC’s “Up with Chis Hayes”to discuss the history of anonymous speech in politics and debate whether spending money is an exercise of free speech. The other guests on the panel are Maria Hinojosa, anchor of NPR’s Latino USA and president of Futuro Media Group; Rep. Peter Welch, Democrat of Vermont and member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee; and Heather McGhee, vice president of policy and research at the progressive think tank Demos.

Glenn also penned a scathing piece on Sen. Diane Feinstein’s (D-CA) attack on our First Amendment rights using, oh noes!, Terror! as an excuse. Glenn makes the point that Feinstein’s outrage over Julian Assange and Wikileaks is tantamount to an attack of freedom of the press.

Dianne Feinstein targets press freedom

The supreme Senate defender of state secrecy and the Surveillance State, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, yesterday issued a statement to Australia’s largest newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald, demanding (once again) the prosecution of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. To see how hostile Feinstein is to basic press freedoms, permit me to change “Assange” each time it appears in her statement to “The New York Times“:

   The head of the US Senate’s powerful intelligence oversight committee has renewed calls for [The New York Times] to be prosecuted for espionage. . . .

   “I believe [The New York Times] has knowingly obtained and disseminated classified information which could cause injury to the United States,” the chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dianne Feinstein, said in a written statement provided to the Herald. “[It] has caused serious harm to US national security, and [] should be prosecuted accordingly.”

As EFF’s Trevor Timm noted, there is no sense in which Feinstein’s denunciation applies to WikiLeaks but not to The New York Times (and, for that matter, senior Obama officials). Indeed, unlike WikiLeaks, which has never done so, The New York Times has repeatedly published Top Secret information. That’s why the prosecution that Feinstein demands for WikiLeaks would be the gravest threat to press freedom and basic transparency in decades. Feinstein’s decades-long record in the Senate strongly suggest that she would perceive these severe threats to press freedom as a benefit rather than drawback to her prosecution designs.

Under Sen. Feinstein’s premise we should have prosecuted Woodward and Bernstein and every other reporter who has exposed government wrong doing. I wonder is she would like to take on Dick Cheney for outing a CIA agent to get us into a war based on a lie, the consequences of which we will never know.  

Dec 22 2011

Yes, We Can: The Case for Indefinite Detention & Rendition

Twist as the president’s supporters might with the “look over here” tactic, the National Defense Authorization Bill (NDAA) does not change any existing law that Barack Obama has interpreted to mean he has the power to throw your sorry butt in prison anywhere in the world for as long as he chooses. Or he can just declare you a terrorist without providing evidence and have you executed without due process. Ignoring the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) that was recently renewed giving the president the authority to send in the military to fight that ubiquitous enemy “terror”, the Obama loyalists, keep pointing to section 1022 of the NDAA, the section that makes military detention presumptive for non-citizens but doesn’t foreclose military detention of US citizens, while completely ignoring section 1021, the section that affirms the President’s authority to indefinitely detain people generally. As Marcy Wheeler at emptywheel points out while the NDAA does not authorize indefinite detention for American citizens, it does not foreclose the possibility either:

The NDAA doesn’t do anything to exempt Americans from indefinite detention. And the reason it doesn’t-at least according to the unrebutted claims of Carl Levin that I reported on over a month ago-is because the Administration asked the Senate Armed Services Committee to take out language that would have specifically exempted Americans from indefinite detention.

   The initial bill reported by the committee included language expressly precluding “the detention of citizens or lawful resident aliens of the United States on the basis of conduct taking place within the United States, except to the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States.”  The Administration asked that this language be removed from the bill. [my emphasis]

So the effect is that (as Lawfare describes in detail) the bill remains unclear about whether Americans can be detained indefinitely and so we’re left arguing about what the law is until such time as a plaintiff gets beyond the Executive Branch’s state secrets invocations to actually decide the issue in court.

Nor did the amendment from Sen. Diane Feinstein clarify that point either, in fact, she may have codified it. So the only recourse is for some poor fool to have his civil liberties abrogated and try to fight in court without being allowed access to lawyers or courts. Those are some hurdles. Scott Horton, contributing editor at Harper’s magazine and New York attorney known for his work in human rights law and the law of armed conflict, discussed this with Keith Olbermann:

Constitutional expert and George Washington University law professor, Jonathan Turley, appeared on C-Span with his take on this discussion. He made it very clear that Obama says that he can assassinate American citizens living on U.S. soil:

(starting at 15:50):

President Obama has just stated a policy that he can have any American citizen killed without any charge, without any review, except his own. If he’s satisfied that you are a terrorist, he says that he can kill you anywhere in the world including in the United States.

Two of his aides just … reaffirmed they believe that American citizens can be killed on the order of the President anywhere including the United States.

You’ve now got a president who says that he can kill you on his own discretion. He can jail you indefinitely on his own discretion [..]

I don’t think the the Framers ever anticipated that [the American people would be so apathetic]. They assumed that people would hold their liberties close, and that they wouldn’t relax …

h/t Washington’s Blog

How quickly the president’s defenders forget Anwar al-Awlaki. Marcy points to the contortions of the law that Obama used to justify his assassination and then issued a “secret memorandum” which was conveniently “leaked” to New York Times reporter Charles Savage:

And, as Charlie Savage has reported, the legal justification the Administration invented for killing an American citizen in a premeditated drone strike consists of largely the same legal justification at issue in the NDAA detainee provisions.

           

  • The 2001 AUMF, which purportedly defined who our enemies are (though the NDAA more logically includes AQAP in its scope than the 2001 AUMF)
  •            

  • Hamdi, which held the President could hold an American citizen in military detention under the 2001 AUMF
  •            

  • Ex Parte Quirin, which held that an American citizen who had joined the enemy’s forces could be tried in a military commission
  •            

  • Scott v. Harris (and Tennesee v. Garner), which held that authorities could use deadly force in the course of attempting to detain American citizens if that person posed an imminent threat of injury or death to others
  •    In other words, Obama relied on substantially the same legal argument supporters of the NDAA detainee provisions made to argue that indefinite detention of American citizens was legal, with the addition of Scott v. Harris to turn the use of deadly force into an unfortunate side-effect of attempted detention.

    There is no question that the Obama administration, by signing the NDAA, believes that it has the broad power to indefinitely detain and assassinate American citizens and guarantees that the next president will too.

    The late George Carlin said it several years ago, “this country is circling the drain“.  

    Jun 01 2011

    The Patriot Act Renewed Without Change

    The (un)Patriot Act was passed, unamended, without debate, and signed by President Obama, who was still in Europe, with a robotic pen before it could expire. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who along with several other liberal senators, had proposed an amendment that put an end to the government secret interpretation of the law, cut a deal with Senate Majority Leader Harry Read (?-NV) and Sen. Diane Feinstein (?-CA) to withdraw the amendment. Reid promised to hold hearings on secret law, and, if his concerns were not met, propose his amendment at a later date.

    I long ago gave up any hope of change from the current regime. It’s obvious that they have shed their skins and revealed themselves to be no better than the Bush/Cheny criminal regime that they are covering.

    George Washington University law professor, Jeffrey Rosen, joins Cenk Uygur to discuss the (un)Patriot Act, its unconstitutionality, the duplicity of Harry Reid and how American’s really do not understand what is in this bill.

    Say good-by to the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment, as well as, Article III courts.