Senators vs Spies, Feinstein vs CIA

Senator Feinstein has always been known as a prominent defender of the National Security State “protecting America“. Per the NYTimes:

Ms. Feinstein has proved to be a bulwark for intelligence agencies in recent years: publicly defending the National Security Agency’s telephone and Internet surveillance activities, the C.I.A.’s authority over drone strikes and the F.B.I.’s actions under the Patriot Act against a growing bipartisan chorus of critics.

Which is why her floor speech yesterday is raising so many eyebrows… because this time, it’s personal. From Roll Call:

The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee torched the CIA in a floor speech Tuesday, charging the agency with spying on her committee’s computers in a possibly illegal search she said has been referred to the Department of Justice for possible prosecution.

The on-the-record allegations by Sen. Dianne Feinstein shook the Senate, with lawmakers in both parties warning of serious fallout if proved true. And her speech put the Department of Justice and the White House in an awkward spot between CIA Director John O. Brennan, who later denied the allegation of spying, and Feinstein, who has been a strong backer of the intelligence community generally and of President Barack Obama.

During her speech, the California Democrat said she learned from Brennan in a Jan. 15 meeting that the CIA improperly searched committee computer files as the committee neared the end of its yearslong investigation of the CIA’s interrogation and detainee practices, confirming several media reports. She said the incident has been referred to the Department of Justice. But Feinstein was also riled by a separate referral by the CIA to Justice suggesting that committee staff had improperly received classified information.

The California Democrat called that referral “a potential effort to intimidate this staff” and called the matter “a defining moment” for whether the Congress would be able to provide oversight of the intelligence community…

“I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution, including the speech and debate,” she said…

There’s video of Feinstein’s speech at the link, but it won’t embed without autoplaying. Transcript, via the Boston Globe, is here.

It’s complicated, because the separate parties are talking about their conflicting interpretations of millions of pages of materials that are not available for independent review. The NYTimes, last week, had the clearest explanation I’ve seen so far. Amy Davidson, at the New Yorker, is less blandly non- judgmental:

This all goes back to the first years after September 11th. The C.I.A. tortured detainees in secret prisons. It also videotaped many of those sessions. Those records should have been handed over, or at least preserved, under the terms of certain court orders. Instead, in November, 2005, a C.I.A. official named Jose Rodriguez had ninety-two videotapes physically destroyed. “Nobody wanted to make a decision that needed to be made,” he told me when I interviewed him in 2012. (He also said, “I really resent you using the word ‘torture’ time and time again.”)

Feinstein, in her speech, said that the C.I.A.’s “troubling” destruction of the tapes put the current story in motion. Michael Hayden, then director of the C.I.A., had offered the committee cables that he said were just as descriptive as the tapes. “The resulting staff report was chilling,” Feinstein said. The committee voted to begin a broader review. The terms were worked out in 2009, and staff members were given an off-site facility with electronic files, on computers supposedly segregated from the C.I.A.’s network, that added up to 6.2 million pages—“without any index, without any organizational structure. It was a true document dump,” Feinstein said. In the years that followed, staff members turned that jumble into a six-thousand-page report, still classified, on the C.I.A.’s detention practices. By all accounts, it is damning.

But, Feinstein said, odd things happened during the course of the committee members’ work. Documents that had been released to them would suddenly disappear from the main electronic database, as though someone had had second thoughts—and they knew they weren’t imagining it, “Gaslight”-style, because, in some cases, they’d printed out hard copies or saved the digital version locally. When they first noticed this, in 2010, Feinstein objected and was apologized to, “and that, as far as I was concerned, put the incidents aside.” Then, after the report was completed, the staff members noticed that at some point hundred of pages of documents known as the “Panetta review” had also, Feinstein said, been “removed by the C.I.A.”…

This is where the C.I.A. seems to have lost its bearings and its prudence. As Feinstein noted, there have been comments to the press suggesting that the only way the committee staff members could have had the Panetta review is if they’d stolen it. The pretense for the search of the committee’s computers—where the staff kept its own work, too—was that there had been some kind of security breach. Feinstein says that this is simply false: maybe the C.I.A. hadn’t meant for the Panetta review to be among the six million pieces of paper they’d swamped the Senate with, but it was there. (Maybe a leaker had even tucked it in.)…

There were crimes, after September 11th, that took place in hidden rooms with video cameras running. And then there were coverups, a whole series of them, escalating from the destruction of the videotapes to the deleting of documents to what Feinstein now calls “a defining moment” in the constitutional balance between the legislature and the executive branch, and between privacy and surveillance. Senator Patrick Leahy said afterward that he could not remember a speech he considered so important. Congress hasn’t minded quite enough that the rest of us have been spied on. Now Feinstein and her colleagues have their moment; what are they going to make of it?

Or, as David Corn puts it in the Mother Jones report linked in the tweet at the top of this post:

[S]ince the founding of the national security state in the years after World War II, there have been numerous occasions when the spies, snoops, and secret warriors of the US government have not informed the busybodies on Capitol Hill about all of their actions. In the 1970s, after revelations of CIA assassination programs and other outrageous intelligence agency misdeeds, Congress created what was supposed to be a tighter system of congressional oversight. But following that, the CIA and other undercover government agencies still mounted operations without telling Congress. (See the Iran-Contra scandal.) Often the spies went to imaginative lengths to keep Congress in the dark. More recently, members of the intelligence community have said they were not fully in the know about the NSA’s extensive surveillance programs. Of course, there was a countervailing complaint from the spies. Often when a secret program becomes public knowledge, members of Congress proclaim their shock, even though they had been told about it.

Overall, the system of congressional oversight has hardly (as far as the public can tell) been stellar. And it has raised doubts about the ability of a democratic government to mount secret ops and wage secret wars in a manner consistent with the values of accountability and transparency. What was essential to decent governance on this front was the delicate relationship between congressional overseers and the intelligence agencies. The intelligence committees have to be forceful and fierce in monitoring the spooks (a responsibility often not met), and the spies have to be cooperative and forthcoming (again, a responsibility often not met). There has to be trust. The committees have to hold faith that the agencies are indeed coming clean, for there is no way a handful of congressional investigators can fully track all the operations of the massive intelligence establishment, and the agencies have to be assured that secrets they shared with the investigators will not be leaked for political purposes. And at the end of the day, elected representatives have to be able to come to the public and say, “We’re keeping a close eye on all this secret stuff, and we are satisfied that we know what is happening and that these activities are being conducted in an appropriate manner.” If such credible assurances cannot be delivered, the system doesn’t work—and the justification for allowing secret government within an open democracy is in tatters….

142 replies
  1. 1
    Baud says:

    Rachel had a good segment on this last night.

    This is a potential opportunity I hope we can take advantage of. It’s easy (and justified) to simply mock Feinstein, but I doubt that’s the best strategy.

  2. 2
    Cervantes says:

    @Baud: You’re right.

    I’m sure we’ll find that the best strategy is to mock Snowden, Greenwald, and Assange, instead.

  3. 3
    Baud says:

    @Cervantes:

    No, that’s just fun and harmless.

    Feinstein, in the other hand, is a sitting senator who has up till now been on the side of the security apparatus. I would like it if better people than me can use this to persuade her to get behind some sort of reform initiative.

  4. 4
    mai naem says:

    How long before there are stories in the WP and NYT about some DiFi scandals that we’ve never heard of before?

  5. 5
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    “I really resent you using the word ‘torture’ time and time again.”

    Awwwww…. Do you want me to kiss it and make it better for you?

    Often when a secret program becomes public knowledge, members of Congress proclaim their shock, even though they had been told about it.

    “I am shocked! SHOCKED to find spying happening here!”
    “Here’s your campaign contributions Ma’am.”
    “Oh, thank you.”

    And it has raised doubts about the ability of a democratic government to mount secret ops and wage secret wars in a manner consistent with the values of accountability and transparency.

    They are inimical to each other.

    The intelligence committees have to be forceful and fierce in monitoring the spooks (a responsibility often not met),

    But not too forceful and never fierce because information is the currency of D.C.

    and the spies have to be cooperative and forthcoming (again, a responsibility often not met).

    and crucified when things go sideways. Let us not forget that.

    There has to be trust.

    HA! Excuse me if my cynicism comes full circle.

  6. 6
    Ecks says:

    If you are doing wildly illegal shit, don’t bite the hand that protects you.

  7. 7
    NotMax says:

    Tip of the iceberg.

    The enormity is the CIA engaging in independent domestic operations. The second outrage is covering that up. The third insult is the laissez-faire, casual and rubber stamp oversight by those delegated to do so.

    Against whom the operations were directed is not what is paramount. That Congress is entangled in being on the receiving end is a symptom, it is not the disease.

    That Ms. Feinstein, who is of an age to have lived through revelations of this type of activity previously, who was witness to what lack of disciplined vigilance evokes, to not put the focus on those core problems and play the “I’m shocked, shocked” card is alarming.

  8. 8
    NotMax says:

    @NotMax

    No edit function.

    Bad phrasing.

    Should read: For Ms. Feinstein

  9. 9
    kindness says:

    DiFi is shocked I tell you, shocked that there is gambling going on in the casino.

    Moderation? Why?

  10. 10
    kindness says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Duh Oh! you beat me to it.

    While it might be nice to have some real oversight I don’t trust DiFi to be the one to do it correctly.

  11. 11
    El Cid says:

    Waiting for CIA to tell Feinstein if she had problems with their spying, she shoulda taken it up with proper authorities, not gone public.

    A tee, and a hee. Though she and the committee apparently did, and kept doing so, and it still wasn’t enough. Hmmm.

  12. 12
    Cassidy says:

    Wow. So you mean to tell me that Senator Fienstein didn’t steal a bunch of documents and run off to a foreign country? I thought that’s how real patriots acted?

  13. 13
    El Cid says:

    @Cassidy: No, but the CIA apparently accused the committee of ‘stealing’ documents the committee holds (i.e., ‘the Panetta review’) was already given to them. And it was in response to these public accusations (via statements & leaks to journalists/kiss-asses) that she chose to go public.

    An ordinary citizen may have been less able to defend herself against accusations by the CIA of having stolen classified documents. I think the CIA forgot the committee members served the US Senate.

  14. 14
    Ecks says:

    @Cassidy: DFi isn’t going to disappear into the prison complex for making these revelations. Slight difference.

  15. 15
    NorthLeft12 says:

    “He also said, “I really resent you using the word ‘torture’ time and time again.” ”

    Funny that. The above message was apparently received and obeyed by most of the US media. ie. NPR, NYT, and too many more to mention.

    And as for Senator Feinstein and the rest of the Congress, did they really think that they were somehow immune from the same spying that the CIA and NSA were carrying out on everyone else?
    In that respect the CIA and NSA were being very democratic. Perhaps people higher up the food chain might like to think that over too.

  16. 16
    Cassidy says:

    @Ecks: who has disappeared in our prison system for making these revelations? Names? Links?

  17. 17
    Barry says:

    @mai naem: “How long before there are stories in the WP and NYT about some DiFi scandals that we’ve never heard of before? ”

    Or if she’s sent some anonymous photos and files.

  18. 18
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    The National Security State apparatus didn’t seem all that bad to DiFi until the came after her.

    Martin Niemöller quotations for DiFi, anyone?

  19. 19
    El Cid says:

    @NorthLeft12:

    And as for Senator Feinstein and the rest of the Congress, did they really think that they were somehow immune from the same spying that the CIA and NSA were carrying out on everyone else?

    Given that this took place on a special computer system set up at CIA location but under the charge of the Congress, my guess is that they still think they’re safe, or that whatever little security they think they’ve set up on their actual Senate & House office computers somehow protect them.

  20. 20
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @kindness: Probably that terrible word that starts with a g that you used, which WP thinks means you’re a spammer trying to separate fools from their money.

  21. 21
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    “I really resent you using the word ‘torture’ time and time again.”

    I guess they’d rather use the Reinhard Heydrich approved euphemism “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” instead.

    Mr. Rodriguez should be waterboarded repeatedly until he himself admits that it is, in fact, torture.

    Then he should be hanged, which is how we dealt with the Japanese who used these techniques on American servicemen during WWII.

  22. 22
    Schlemizel says:

    This is going to sound like I side with the domestic spying operation but I don’t. That said, in this particular case the CIA gave the Senate committee documents marked secret but the information was leaked. They wanted to know who the leaker was and they knew nobody would confess so they did a little snooping.

    I do not understand why the Senator would be upset with that, leaking is a constant problem and people exactly like the Senator often bemoan that fact. It would seem that the problem for the Senator is not all the over reach of the intel community, which she has supported and encouraged, but the fact that she herself might be a target. That is classic GOP behavior right there. “It is wrong when it happens to me!”

    And people wonder why many voters, particularly young ones, do not see any particular difference between the two parties.

  23. 23
    Ecks says:

    @Cassidy: are you telling me that if Snowden landed in LaGuardia today, he’d be enjoying Central Park tomorrow? Because no one else does. Once he spilled the beans, his choice was between the American prison system, and intercontinental air flights.

  24. 24
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    was that there had been some kind of security breach. Feinstein says that this is simply false:

    Oh, there had been a “security breach”. Documents that the CIA did not want the Senate staffers to see were inadvertently in the document dump, so the CIA took them back, and THEN claimed they were stolen.

    The security breach of the Senate committee’s computers was committed by the CIA.

  25. 25
    Baud says:

    @Schlemizel:

    And people wonder why many voters, particularly young ones, do not see any particular difference between the two parties.

    Because it’s a meme that is constantly pushed in the media and on the Internet

  26. 26
    raven says:

    Newsmax coming to your tv!

  27. 27
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Baud:

    Yes. This. It’s exactly the meme that the 1% wants pushed, in its ongoing war with the 99%. Their lackeys in the MSM obey.

  28. 28
    El Cid says:

    @Schlemizel: That’s certainly the CIA’s spin. Here’s from the accompanying NYT editorial:

    The report has been going through the snail’s pace review and declassification process since December 2012. The C.I.A. disputed some of its findings. But Ms. Feinstein publicly confirmed on Tuesday that an internal review by the C.I.A. had reached conclusions similar to those in the Senate staff report.

    It was the committee staff’s possession of that internal review — which the C.I.A. has refused to give to the Senate — that spurred what Ms. Feinstein said was an illegal search of computers (provided to the Senate staff by the C.I.A.) that contained drafts of the internal review.

    Ms. Feinstein said that staff members found the drafts among the documents that the C.I.A. had made available to the committee. She said she did not know whether the drafts were put there inadvertently, or by a whistle-blower. The Senate’s possession of the documents was entirely legal, she said.

    She dismissed the acting C.I.A. general counsel’s claim that the Senate staffers had hacked agency computers as intimidation. The counsel, she noted, was a lawyer and then chief lawyer for the interrogations division and is “mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in our study.”

    By “the internal review” they refer to a Leon Panetta-led review of CIA actions which supposedly came to very harsh conclusions about the CIA’s torture programs, and it was this review by Leon Panetta which the CIA was angry that investigating Senate staffers had access to.

    If those characterizations are true, the CIA can go fuck itself. No, it has no security-related justifications whatsoever to prevent Senate subcommittee staffers charged with investigating its torture programs from reading a review performed by the CIA’s former director (who for his part is denying that the document rose to the level of a ‘review‘).

    In a brief interview, Panetta said that the information at the core of the showdown — a report prepared by a CIA task force on Bush-era interrogation practices — was never supposed to be a comprehensive review of whether such methods were successful or proper.

    Instead, the group’s work was largely to catalog and analyze records being provided to Senate investigators, Panetta told POLITICO. “Basically, it was just looking at the material that was being provided to the Hill. There wasn’t any kind of formal study. They call it ‘the Panetta review,’ but it wasn’t a formal study,” he said.

    It’s kind of like the view is that the CIA gets to choose exactly what information the Senate investigation can have access to so as to determine what conclusions the investigation arrives at.

  29. 29
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Schlemizel: A difference, from the above: But, Feinstein said, odd things happened during the course of the committee members’ work. Documents that had been released to them would suddenly disappear from the main electronic database, as though someone had had second thoughts—and they knew they weren’t imagining it, “Gaslight”-style, because, in some cases, they’d printed out hard copies or saved the digital version locally. When they first noticed this, in 2010, Feinstein objected and was apologized to, “and that, as far as I was concerned, put the incidents aside.” Then, after the report was completed, the staff members noticed that at some point hundred of pages of documents known as the “Panetta review” had also, Feinstein said, been “removed by the C.I.A.”…

  30. 30
    Tommy says:

    Just wait till something comes out about her, that she knows could have only come from the NSA and watch how fast her story changes.

  31. 31
    Tommy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: One of the things that stunned me, and I only learned this in like 2006, is many of these Senators not only can’t take notes nor copies of these documents, they are not even allowed to talk with their staff about them. I found this stunning (and not in a good way). I don’t know, if I was on an intelligence committee I’d like to think I’d hire a staffer that was an expert on these topics so you know, I could talk to them and make more educated decisions. But what do I know.

  32. 32
    NotMax says:

    @raven

    Newton Minow is proven right daily.

  33. 33
    Cervantes says:

    @Baud:

    No, that’s just fun and harmless.

    If one’s taste runs to stupid, then yes, many stupid things are fun. This stupid thing isn’t harmless, but it can be — if it’s limited to the stylings of toddlers on the Internet. Alas, it has not been so limited.

    Then again, there is a small possibility that Feinstein has learned her lesson now. Knowing her, though, and knowing the system, I think it’s a vanishingly small possibility — we shall see.

    I would like it if better people than me can use this to persuade her to get behind some sort of reform initiative.

    It’s not accidental that she’s finally discovering some of what’s been done.

    Job 4:8, baby: read it and weep.

  34. 34
    Ash Can says:

    @Ecks: It’s not just “spilling beans,” it’s the electronic breaking-and-entering, theft of classified information, and running off to the country’s two main rivals with it that has put Snowden at odds with the law. It always amazes me when people can’t, or refuse to, figure out something this simple.

  35. 35
    Cervantes says:

    @NotMax: Not alarming — not even surprising.

    Other than that, I agree.

  36. 36
    Tommy says:

    @Ash Can: by the letter of the law you are correct. The problem is he had nowhere else to go and nothing else he could have done. That second part is just a fact. Drake tried many times to follow the “rules” and that got them nowhere, outside of his life being tore apart a spending a lot of time with lawyers and in court. All he was trying to do was tell the Senate the NSA had spent tens of billions on a program that didn’t work. That actually made us less “safe.”

  37. 37
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tommy: They can talk to staff with the proper clearances. From the above:

    The terms were worked out in 2009, and staff members were given an off-site facility with electronic files, on computers supposedly segregated from the C.I.A.’s network, that added up to 6.2 million pages—

  38. 38
    raven says:

    @NotMax: Signal Corps!

  39. 39
    Ash Can says:

    What I think is interesting is that Feinstein learned of the hack from Brennan himself. Can’t he do anything about it?

  40. 40
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @raven: Just what I needed, another reason to avoid TV.

  41. 41
    different-church-lady says:

    He also said, “I really resent you using the word ‘torture’ time and time again.”

    Yeah? Well, Sparky, I really resent you using torture itself time and time again,

  42. 42
    Tommy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: In this case, but not with the NSA. This is something Senator Brown (among others) have bitched about 24/7. That not only can’t they talk to anybody about what they see in the “special reading rooms” but they often don’t even understand everything, and the only people to give them clarification are well, officials at the NSA that many might assume are looking out for their own best interest.

  43. 43
    Cervantes says:

    @El Cid: Even they are not quite silly enough to think so.

  44. 44
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @El Cid:

    It’s kind of like the view is that the CIA gets to choose exactly what information the Senate investigation can have access to so as to determine what conclusions the investigation arrives at.

    Bingo.

    The CIA wanted to direct the investigation to where the CIA wanted it to go. Which is away from the more obvious conclusion that both Bush and Cheney are war criminals pretty much in the sense that Germans and Japanese were war criminals in the wake of WWII.

    Both should be imprisoned, or put to death. Just as Germans and Japanese were for their war crimes.

  45. 45
    Tommy says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: It is pretty messed up. My father worked at high levels in the DoD for many years. Nobody would ever confuse him with being a liberal. When he heard what we were doing he had to think like one second to come to the conclusion that (1) we were torturing people and (2) it was both wrong and illegal in every sense of the word.

  46. 46
    chrome agnomen says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    but first: some enhanced interrogation!

  47. 47
    Schlemizel says:

    @Baud:
    And then a real life “Democratic” Senator from California demonstrates that she is exactly like a Republican in being OK with the intel community fucking with us but not with her.

    Sure the media sets the stage but assholes like DiFi ensure that there are examples to point to to make the meme seem accurate.

  48. 48
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Tommy: In a way, this is the classic conundrum of intelligence.

    You know something secret, but in order to act on it, you will betray the secrecy. So the original reason for gathering the intelligence is subsumed by the desire to keep the secret. Protecting the secret becomes more important than protecting the country.

    At this point, you are lost. Your enemy has already won.

  49. 49
    Schlemizel says:

    @Baud:
    And then a real life “Democratic” Senator from California demonstrates that she is exactly like a Republican in being OK with the intel community fucking with us but not with her.

    Sure the media sets the stage but assholes like DiFi ensure that there are examples to point to to make the meme seem accurate.

  50. 50
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @chrome agnomen: “And after the enhanced interrogation, the oral sex!”

    “Well, I could stay a bit longer…”

  51. 51
    Cervantes says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    Protecting the secret becomes more important than protecting the country.

    And that is precisely where Snowden got off the gravy train, for the reasons you have explained.

    If I may borrow a line: “It always amazes me when people can’t, or refuse to, figure out something this simple.”

  52. 52
    Tommy says:

    @Schlemizel: And that is a huge problem. I think I am a very honest and ethical person. But if I was sitting at some computer terminal at the NSA and some juicy piece of information came across my desk, not so sure I could keep it to myself and not use it in some way.

    Sure I don’t think most people want to gossip or tell somebodies secret, but I almost think it is human nature to do both.

  53. 53
    Snarki, child of Loki says:

    Yeah, Brennan categorically denied that the CIA broke into Senate staffer computers.

    “…that’s the NSA’s job” , he almost muttered.

  54. 54
    Pharniel says:

    TO be fair, no one is vengeful like a pissed off darmu queen US Senator.

    At this point the CIA serves no purpose and needs to be ‘phased out’.

  55. 55
    Cassidy says:

    @Ecks: Going to prison for a crime and “disappearing” into prison are two different things.

  56. 56
    Jack the Second says:

    I would like everyone involved in the US’s torture regime — both directly, the torturers and their commanders, and those simply complicit in the torture, who could have intervened but didn’t — to receive talk therapy until they can accept both that what they did was torture and that it was wrong.

    This is only slightly motivated by petty vindictiveness. Mostly I think that if one generation of assholes was forced to come to terms with it in a timely manner, we could break the chain and when the next 9/11, the next Vietnam, the next whatever comes around in 20 years, we’ll deal with it better.

  57. 57
    Ash Can says:

    @Tommy: He could have gone straight to the newspapers themselves, like Daniel Ellsberg did, rather than operating through an intermediary. He could have gone to any of the Republican members of the House or Senate Intelligence Committees. Heck, he could have gone to any Republican, period, at all. He had his choice of dozens and dozens of right-wing/GOP organizations and think tanks that would have been more than happy to push an anti-Obama-admin crusade like this. He had many, many other places to go.

  58. 58
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tommy: Color me doubtful. That sounds like a whole lot of CMA (cover my a$$) to me. “I didn’t know what I was investigating because I previously voted for a law that prohibited me from knowing.”

    In other words, if their staff (with the proper clearances) are not allowed to help them, it is specifically because they are barred by law from doing so, a law duly passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by a President. It is entirely possible that the gutless weasels in Congress have allowed for such an infringement on their oversight powers, but I ain’t buying it w/o seeing the smoking bazooka they used to blow a hole thru their constitutionally designated powers.

  59. 59
    Tommy says:

    @Pharniel: I am not sure I’d go that far, but the CIA needs robust oversight. But as I type that I then wonder if robust oversight is even possible.

    When I see stories like this my gut is to think it is 100 times worse. That this is just the tip of the iceberg. And if we really, I mean really knew the truth we’d be freaking out a lot more (and honestly I am freaking out a little).

    The other thing, and maybe I read to many spy novels, is this doesn’t SURPRISE ME IN THE LEAST it happened. I mean as terrible as this is to say, I kind of figured it was going on and I am not some conspiracy nut :)!

  60. 60
    Tommy says:

    @Ash Can: You should really read up on Thomas Andrews Drake:

    In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the NSA desired new tools to collect intelligence from the growing flood of information pouring out of the new digital networks like the internet. Drake became involved in the internal NSA debate between two of these tools, the Trailblazer Project and the ThinThread project.[9][22] He became part of the “minority” that favored ThinThread for several reasons,[22] including its theoretical ability to protect privacy while gathering intelligence.[15] Trailblazer, on the other hand, not only violated privacy, in violation of the Fourth Amendment[citation needed], and other laws and regulations, it also required billions of dollars, dwarfing the cost of ThinThread. Drake eventually became “disillusioned, then indignant” regarding the problems he saw at the agency.[15] Around 2000 NSA head Michael Hayden chose Trailblazer over ThinThread; ThinThread was cancelled and Trailblazer ramped up, eventually employing IBM, SAIC, Boeing, CSC, and others.[24]

    Drake worked his way through the legal processes that are prescribed for government employees who believe that questionable activities are taking place in their departments.[22] In accordance with whistleblower protection laws such as the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, Drake complained internally to the designated authorities: to his bosses, the NSA Inspector General, the Defense Department Inspector General, and both the House and Senate Congressional intelligence committees.[25]

    He also kept in contact with Diane S. Roark, a staffer for the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee of the U.S. Congress (the House committee responsible for oversight of the executive branch’s intelligence activities).[22] Roark was the “staff expert” on the NSA’s budget,[9] and the two of them had met in 2000.[15]

    He tried everything, then went to a paper. He still almost went to jail for the rest of his life. Snowden has mentioned this case as just one of many examples of why he did what he did.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Andrews_Drake

  61. 61
    Barry says:

    @Tommy: “One of the things that stunned me, and I only learned this in like 2006, is many of these Senators not only can’t take notes nor copies of these documents, they are not even allowed to talk with their staff about them. I found this stunning (and not in a good way). I don’t know, if I was on an intelligence committee I’d like to think I’d hire a staffer that was an expert on these topics so you know, I could talk to them and make more educated decisions. But what do I know. ”

    That’s rather important, because it means that 99.9% of their ability to actually oversee anything is zeroed out.

  62. 62
    Cervantes says:

    @Tommy: It’s been mentioned before, and duly ignored. Here’s hoping it will sink in at some point, give or take a few years.

  63. 63
    different-church-lady says:

    @Ecks: NO PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM, NO PEACE!

  64. 64
    Tommy says:

    @Barry: Exactly. Now it is a law, so it was passed by Congress and signed into law by the President. But how the heck is anybody supposed to oversee something as complex as the NSA when the only people you can talk to about the NSA is the FREAKING NSA! Also about the only info you get comes from the FREAKING NSA.

    If that isn’t a plan designed to fail in an epic manner I don’t know what is.

    I think Rachel Maddow, talking to Senator Brown once said, it is like Fight Club. The first rule of Fight Club is you can’t talk about Fight Club.

  65. 65
    gvg says:

    I’m actually encouraged to hear someone in that committee was persistent in calling torture torture and that at least contributed to why the CIA was bothered by the Senate review. up to now I’ve only heard weasle words. The whole coverup scenario implies that the committee was going to recommend things spy agencies didn’t want which is a good sign.

  66. 66
    Cervantes says:

    @Barry:

    That’s rather important, because it means that 99.9% of their ability to actually oversee anything is zeroed out.

    If you think that’s bad, consider this message circulated by the Security Office of the United States Senate on June 14, 2013 (in the wake of Snowden’s revelations):

    Please share with your staff the guidance below.

    Classified information, whether or not posted on public websites, disclosed to the media, or otherwise in the public domain, remains classified and must be treated as such until it is declassified by an appropriate U.S. government authority.

    Senate employees and contractors shall not, while accessing the web on unclassified government systems, access or download documents that are known or suspected to contain classified information.

    Senate employees and contractors who believe they may have inadvertently accessed or downloaded classified information via non-classified Senate systems, should contact the Office of Senate Security for assistance.

    So while the rest of the world could finally educate itself (again) as to the maleficence of our security apparatus — the presidential orders, the FISA business, the NSA’s internal marketing presentations — the US Senate was instructed to keep pretending that the information — and the underlying activity — was imaginary.

    You know, ostriches have nothing on these people.

  67. 67
    Betty Cracker says:

    Just watched Maddow’s segment on this from last night. Sweet fancy Moses.

  68. 68
    Tommy says:

    @Cervantes: I will openly admit I fall into the Glenn Greenwald camp on these issues. When I first started reading his blog, before he went to Salon, I didn’t often agree with them. But I read what he had to write. Read the materials he linked to, and quickly I had to reevaluate my thinking on a number of topics.

    I am not so proud to admit I had been an adult for many years and I had to find my thinking was lacking. Not informed. But alas I’d be less proud to say I wasn’t willing to reevaluate my thinking.

    It seems some here are not willing to do the same.

  69. 69
    Cervantes says:

    @Tommy: I forgot to thank you for reminding us of the Drake case again.

  70. 70
    Corner Stone says:

    “Free Mumia!”
    /said BJ commenters unironically

  71. 71
    Cervantes says:

    @different-church-lady:

    NO PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM, NO PEACE!

    Very droll — but if Bush could award one of those to George Tenet, who are we to deny one to Edward Snowden?

  72. 72
    Ash Can says:

    @Tommy: Drake ended up with charges against him essentially dropped, and received a slap on the wrist. It seems strange to be using the example of someone who was more or less exonerated as a reason for fleeing the country. Maybe the fact that the information that Snowden stole is less about the NSA spying on Americans and more about how it spies, and works with other spy agencies, abroad — i.e., does its job — has something to do with the fact that he not only fled the country, but went where he did.

    I’m not saying that the NSA’s hands are clean. It was pretty obvious from the moment the Patriot Act was signed into law that things were going to get out of hand, and domestic surveillance was dicey even before that. And Snowden and Greenwald both deserve kudos for restarting the debate about cleaning up the mess that the Patriot Act made. But the price of restarting that debate has been a disruption of legitimate security operations in numerous Western nations. It’s delayed the development of national cybersecurity and anti-hacking initiatives. It may even have contributed to Putin moving his Crimean adventure up a year. I for one think that the debate could have been restarted without disrupting other nations’ security operations. But then, maybe merely blowing the whistle on dubious domestic spying was never the real objective for Snowden and/or Greenwald to begin with.

  73. 73
    Corner Stone says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    I guess they’d rather use the Reinhard Heydrich approved euphemism “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” instead.

    One of the reasons my soul hurt when President Obama used the term recently.

  74. 74
    Tommy says:

    @Ash Can: We will have to agree to disagree, cause we are so far apart here I don’t see how we come to any common ground. Drake spent years and years fighting in court. It was nothing close to a forgone conclusion he wouldn’t spend most or the rest of his life in jail.

  75. 75
    Corner Stone says:

    @Ash Can:

    It’s delayed the development of national cybersecurity and anti-hacking initiatives.

    I’m extremely sceptical of any initiatives in this regard, so maybe not a bad thing?

    It may even have contributed to Putin moving his Crimean adventure up a year.

    Say what now?

  76. 76
    John Redford says:

    While it’s fun to mock Feinstein, this situation goes way beyond that. It’s also way beyond unauthorized surveillance. What’s happening here is that the CIA is actively threatening Congressional staffers in order to cover up torture and murder. Feinstein isn’t talking about NSA agents giggling at your ungrammatical emails, she’s talking about strapping people onto tables and killing them. Then when their rightful overseers attempt to find out what’s going on, the CIA tells the press and the DoJ that they’re stealing precious national secrets and should be jailed. This isn’t surprising – CIA officers and leaders appear to have committed major criminal offenses, and are worried about their necks.

    At what point is the CIA just not worth supporting? They’ve failed constantly to find actual threats, and are such an embarrassment to the nation that they actually harm our global interests. Take the $50 billion a year that they and the other black agencies cost and fix roads with it.

  77. 77
    Cervantes says:

    @Tommy: You see: It may sink in at some point, give or take a few decades — but probably not.

    I was too optimistic. You can blame it on my sunny disposition.

  78. 78
    Corner Stone says:

    Yawn. Known. Burger.

  79. 79
    Betty Cracker says:

    @John Redford: Thank you for putting the issue in the stark terms it deserves.

  80. 80
    Cervantes says:

    @John Redford:

    What’s happening here is that the CIA is actively threatening Congressional staffers in order to cover up torture and murder.

    You know what’s funny, John? (There’s always something funny.)

    In 1959, when CIA Director Allen Dulles made his speech at the fake laying of a cornerstone at the agency’s new headquarters, he had a sufficiently active sense of humor to give the CIA its “unofficial” motto (John 8:32):

    And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.

    Which motto was then inscribed on the face of the building, and then forevermore ignored.

  81. 81
    Ash Can says:

    @Corner Stone:

    It may even have contributed to Putin moving his Crimean adventure up a year.

    OK, I’m backing off on this. I had read some scuttlebutt elsewhere that Putin had been planning to invade Crimea around the time of the next Russian elections and decided instead to invade now, but I can’t find anything on the ‘net more substantive than rumors.

  82. 82
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Ash Can: I don’t know where else you may have read it, but I posted that here, and attributed it to sources in Ukrainian military intelligence. Sorry, can’t get more specific. But at least some Ukrainian military people believe that this venture was planned for 2015, and was accelerated due to the changes in government in Kiev and the resultant instability. Putin, according to that theory, followed the maxim of George W. Plunkitt: “I seen my opportunities and I took ’em.”

    Nothing to do with Snowden.

  83. 83
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @Tommy: Which is why the murder of Medgar Evers led to African Americans pursuing a strategy of armed revolution, rather than voter registration.

  84. 84
    Keith G says:

    This would be a very good time for the current president to have a come to Jesus meeting with the top leadership of the CIA. I hope that he would want to do such a thing.

  85. 85
    Someguy says:

    Whatever. This is just more anti-Obama bullshit from the most right wing Democratic senator remaining (who recently inherited the Joe Lieberman Memorial Endowed Chair for Splendid Little Warmaking Studies).

  86. 86
    Corner Stone says:

    @Baud:

    It’s easy (and justified) to simply mock Feinstein, but I doubt that’s the best strategy.

    Feinstein should be mocked, thoroughly. Anytime she opens her mouth people should start laughing and walk away from her.
    Because that’s about as much change as will ever come out of this. Nothing’s going to happen and no one’s going to be fired or otherwise penalized. If something did come out of this I’ll bet $100 to charity that it actually ends up strenghtening the position of the intelligence committee to continue their actions moving forward. But with some added patina of legality schmeared on top for extra measure. In the name of “Oversight”, of course.
    I mean, at the root of this, she’s pissed because they played hide and seek with some documents. The guy fucking destroyed 90+ video tapes of US personnel torturing people. Nobody seems to care too much about that.
    And I’m sorry, Mr. President, but that was torture. Not enhanced interrogation techniques.

  87. 87
    Cervantes says:

    @Corner Stone:

    The guy fucking destroyed 90+ video tapes of US personnel torturing people. Nobody seems to care too much about that.

    Bob Eatinger not only co-approved the destruction of those tapes, he then had the gall to file a criminal complaint alleging that the Intelligence Committee had “improperly obtained” CIA documents that recorded (among many other atrocities) his own role in the sheer, unrelenting insanity of the Bush years.

  88. 88
    Ash Can says:

    @Gin & Tonic: I don’t know either. I went looking for it and came up empty, so like I say, I’m backing off of it. I still have to wonder, however, whether any of Snowden’s information has been at all helpful to Putin in conducting his Crimean/Ukrainian campaign. It would seem likely, but we may never know for sure.

  89. 89
    Cervantes says:

    @Ash Can: Snowden may have achieved nothing useful at all but there are people who should still take care not to let his continued existence drive them completely around the bend.

    In some cases it may already be too late.

  90. 90
    Tata says:

    Remember when Fourth Branch Cheney’s henchmen exposed Valerie Plame and we all briefly felt sorry enough for the CIA to take it a casserole or something? At the time, I thought, ‘These are the mustache-twisting cartoon villains of the seventies, eighties and nineties. This is some wicked bullshit,’ because this – what we see here now – is what they’ve always been up to.

  91. 91
    Corner Stone says:

    @Ash Can:

    It would seem likely, but we may never know for sure.

    Why do people keep doing shit like this? Did someone pass around a bottle of Noonan Juice and I missed it?

  92. 92
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Tata: Agreed on that. I had never seen so many liberals upset that the president wasn’t listening to the CIA.

  93. 93
    Cassidy says:

    @John Redford: Who’s mocking Feinstein? I see a lot of mocking of our suburban liberaltarian set, but theyre easy marks so it’s fun. Personally, I’m glad Feinstein wants to do something. I wish she had been this concerned before we went medieval on brown people, but I’m a pragmatic guy and will take what I can get.

  94. 94
    Corner Stone says:

    In 1959, when CIA Director Allen Dulles made his speech at the fake laying of a cornerstone at the agency’s new headquarters

    Sometimes it seems like it was 1959 that I last had some action.
    Ah, 1959! Those were the days! Men were men, and juntas were juntas!

  95. 95
    Cervantes says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Yawn. Known. Burger.

    See, now you’ve gone and woken the toddlers. They were napping peacefully.

  96. 96
    C.V. Danes says:

    So, an outlaw agency of the secret government went off the rails with its surveillance activities. Unpossible!

  97. 97
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Corner Stone: I drank some. The obvious reason that Putin moved his invasion up early is that he did not anticipate having Yanukovych flee the Ukraine. Whether or not the Russians have been able to read Snowden’s file to prevent the US from spying on Russia in ways that would have allowed the US to better anticipate Russia’s response, we won’t know, because right now I would assume, the agencies that are supposed to be analysing our adversaries missed another major action.

  98. 98
    Corner Stone says:

    @Suffern ACE: Did you save any for me? Because it looks like I’m going to need to down a few shots before I try re-reading the rest of your comment.

  99. 99
    Ash Can says:

    @Cervantes: Edward Snowden stole classified information on the operation of the NSA and its interactions with its foreign counterparts and went to China and Russia with it. The only people completely around the bend are the ones in denial about those two governments having that information.

  100. 100
    Ash Can says:

    @Corner Stone: On the one hand, given what we know now, it’s impossible to say for sure that Snowden’s information did have an effect on Putin’s actions. Also, it’s a sensible argument to say that Snowden’s information would not have played a decisive role in Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, since an erstwhile KGB officer who’s pining for the old Soviet Union, and who has already invaded another former Soviet republic, was going to invade Crimea anyway. But it’s naive to think that Snowden’s information isn’t proving useful to Putin at all.

  101. 101
    CONGRATULATIONS! says:

    And then a real life “Democratic” Senator from California demonstrates that she is exactly like a Republican in being OK with the intel community fucking with us but not with her.

    @Schlemizel: There are so many ways that DiFi has demonstrated that she is “exactly like a Republican” and so few where she demonstrates that she’s a Democrat, that I quit voting for her decades ago. She was a Republican in all but name when she was serving in San Francisco and that has never changed. I look forward to her replacement.

  102. 102
    Corner Stone says:

    @Ash Can:

    But it’s naive to think that Snowden’s information isn’t proving useful to Putin at all.

    a)What information are you referring to, specifically?
    b)In what way or ways?

  103. 103
    bob says:

    This stuff was exposed a while back and no one cared. Why now?—“Russ Tice worked as an offensive National Security Agency (NSA) analyst from 2002 to 2005, before becoming a source for this Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times article exposing NSA domestic spying.

    This week he appeared on the Boiling Frogs Show and detailed how he had his hands “in the nitty-gritty, the nuts and bolts” during his 20 years as a U.S. intelligence analyst.

    Tice claimed that he held NSA wiretap orders targeting numerous members of the U.S. government, including one for a young senator from Illinois named Barack Obama.

    “In the summer of 2004, one of the papers that I held in my hand was to wiretap a bunch of numbers associated with a forty-some-year-old senator from Illinois. You wouldn’t happen to know where that guy lives now would you? It’s a big White House in Washington D.C. That’s who the NSA went after. That’s the President of the United States now.”

    Tice added that he also saw orders to spy on Hillary Clinton, Senators John McCain and Diane Feinstein, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, Gen. David Petraeus, and a current Supreme Court Justice.

    That sounds like a lot of abuse of the rules that govern NSA domestic spying. And that’s exactly what Tice is claiming.

    ” The abuse is rampant and everyone is pretending that it’s never happened, and it couldn’t happen. … I know [there was abuse] because I had my hands on the papers for these sorts of things :…”

  104. 104
    Cervantes says:

    @Ash Can:

    Edward Snowden stole classified information on the operation of the NSA and its interactions with its foreign counterparts and went to China and Russia with it. The only people completely around the bend are the ones in denial about those two governments having that information.

    No one here is “in denial” about any fact, but all you have there is a suspicion, nothing more. Having suspicions is fine — knock yourself out, I have plenty as well — but you have no evidence. And you know who else has no evidence?

    According to senior intelligence officials, two uncertainties feed their greatest concerns. One is whether Russia or China managed to take the Snowden archive from his computer, a worst-case assumption for which three officials acknowledged there is no evidence.

    In a previous assignment, Snowden taught U.S. intelligence personnel how to operate securely in a “high-threat digital environment,” using a training scenario in which China was the designated threat. He declined to discuss the whereabouts of the files, but he said that he is confident he did not expose them to Chinese intelligence in Hong Kong. And he said he did not bring them to Russia.

    “There’s nothing on it,” he said, turning his laptop screen toward his visitor. “My hard drive is completely blank.”

    That’s Barton Gellman writing in the WP (December 23). If you’d like to look into it, you can start here.

  105. 105
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    This will probably result in more action to curtail surveillance than anything released by Snowden.

  106. 106
    Cervantes says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Whatever it takes, Citoyen, whatever it takes.

  107. 107
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Cervantes: Not disagreeing. While it is easy to mock Feinstein for this (and a variety of other reasons), her ox has been gored and she is in a position to do something about it. Additionally, if a pro-“security” senator like her pushes for changes, it would give cover for a lot of other senators to come along.

  108. 108
    Mandalay says:

    @Ash Can:

    Edward Snowden stole classified information on the operation of the NSA and its interactions with its foreign counterparts and went to China and Russia with it. The only people completely around the bend are the ones in denial about those two governments having that information.

    Those who are absolutely certain that Russia and China obtained information from Snowden are round the bend.

    Snowden has stated that once he had handed over the classified data to Greenwald and Potras in Hong Kong, before voluntarily exposing himself, he retained nothing of value on his computers. That makes sense to anyone with an open mind, who can accept that Snowden might want to explicitly place the data he took in the hands of people he trusted, and also ensure that nobody else could access it.

    That is not the only possible scenario of course. But it is by far the the most plausible one, which dovetails with everything that Snowden has said and done since he left the United States. And anyone who insists that Russia and China must have everything that Snowden took, and it is impossible that they have nothing, is simply an idiot.

  109. 109
    Corner Stone says:

    @Mandalay:

    That is not the only possible scenario of course.

    This one is still currently my personal favorite:

    This seems to assume that Snowden’s actions have all been voluntary. It could very well be that he got into the whistleblower game with much lower aims and was eventually turned, forced to go much further than he planned. If that’s the case, then you’ve got to ask who might have turned him, then wonder about that party’s motives.

  110. 110
    AxelFoley says:

    @Ash Can:

    @Ecks: It’s not just “spilling beans,” it’s the electronic breaking-and-entering, theft of classified information, and running off to the country’s two main rivals with it that has put Snowden at odds with the law. It always amazes me when people can’t, or refuse to, figure out something this simple.

    This. Right. Here.

  111. 111
    AxelFoley says:

    @Tommy:

    @Cervantes: I will openly admit I fall into the Glenn Greenwald camp on these issues.

    Stopped reading right there.

  112. 112
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @Mandalay: No, the person who’s an idiot is the one who thinks information can’t be recovered from a hard drive that hasn’t been pulverized by a sledge hammer.

  113. 113
    Keith G says:

    @Corner Stone: These people are letting their biases and petty concerns create a shield of ignorance that protects them from instructive facts.

    Their worldview has created a deep and abiding need to dislike Snowden, so they will believe anything that supports that necessity.

    Snowden Derangement Syndrome. It’s not just for Rush Limbaugh.

  114. 114
    burnspbesq says:

    I am still at a loss to explain why Judge Brinkema didn’t throw Jose Rodriguez in jail back in 2006 when the destruction of the videotapes first came to light. He was unquestionably in contempt of court. And the statute of limitation hasn’t run out on what certainly appears to be a slam-dunk case of obstruction of justice and evidence tampering (BTW, thanks to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, evidence tampering carries the same maxumum sentence as attempted murder of a Federal witness, i.e., 20 years). If there was ever someone who deserves to die in prison, Jose Rodriguez is that guy.

  115. 115
    burnspbesq says:

    @Keith G:

    If it’s derangement to think that criminals should be prosecuted, then I’m deranged.

  116. 116
    Cassidy says:

    @Keith G: ahhahahahahahahaha…..hahahahahahahahaha, oh man, that’s rich. I needed that. /wipes tears

  117. 117
    Cervantes says:

    @burnspbesq:

    I am still at a loss to explain why Judge Brinkema didn’t throw Jose Rodriguez in jail back in 2006 when the destruction of the videotapes first came to light.

    Your time-line is mysterious. When do you think “the destruction of the videotapes first came to light”?

  118. 118
    Mandalay says:

    @Bobby Thomson:

    No, the person who’s an idiot is the one who thinks information can’t be recovered from a hard drive that hasn’t been pulverized by a sledge hammer.

    And the Snowden computer myths keep on coming: the only way to ensure that data can’t be recovered from a hard drive is to pulverize it with a hammer! Be sure it is a sledge hammer, and be sure that you pulverize! Just smashing the hard drive with a regular hammer won’t work! The Commies will use their anti-hammer detection device to read the secret data!

    No technology exists to erase a hard drive! It’s unpossible!

    Jesus Christ.

  119. 119
    Mandalay says:

    @Keith G:

    Their worldview has created a deep and abiding need to dislike Snowden, so they will believe anything that supports that necessity.

    Right. Their world view explicitly excludes the possibility that these three scenarios can exist concurrently:
    – Snowden cares about the abuses done by our security services.
    – Snowden cares about his country.
    – Snowden has not provided any information to Russia or China.
    But if you exclude that as a possibility, and there is no evidence to the contrary, what to do? Easy!…fabricate allegations and attack his character.

  120. 120
    Cervantes says:

    @AxelFoley:

    Stopped reading right there.

    Yes, that’s only prudent.

    I see you’re taking Pope to heart:

    A little learning is a dangerous thing

    Although … there is a next line:

    Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.

    No, you’re right, that won’t help you.

    Abstinence is the best policy, I agree.

  121. 121
    mclaren says:

    @Cassidy:

    Wow. So you mean to tell me that Senator Fienstein didn’t steal a bunch of documents and run off to a foreign country? I thought that’s how real patriots acted?

    Thanks for telling that lie. It destroys your credibility more effectively than anything I could say.

    First, let’s recall that the so-called “documents” Snowden took were Powerpoint presentations showing grossly illegal unconstitutional spying by the NSA in massive violation of the 4th amendment, the fifth amendment, the 6th amendment, and the 14th amendment.

    Second, it’s important to recognize that Snowden didn’t leak any secrets except the “secret” that the U.S. government’s intelligence agencies were committing massive crimes.

    So what’s you’re really telling us is: people who reveal that our government is committing crimes are evil traitors who must be tried and sent to prison…while the government agencies that commit these massive crimes should be rewarded and coddled and praised.

    Emigrate to North Korea. That’s the only place I can think of offhand where your ideas about how government should work are still taken seriously by the population.

  122. 122
    Cervantes says:

    @mclaren: You under-estimate the North Korean people.

  123. 123
    mclaren says:

    @Ash Can:

    Edward Snowden stole classified information on the operation of the NSA…

    That’s a lie.

    When you keep telling these kinds of lies, you make yourself look ridiculous.

    The only “classified information” that Edward Snowden revealed was powerpoint slides showing evidence that the NSA was lying to congress and massively violating the constitution by engaging in surveillance far far far beyond its legal authority.

    To claim that revealing a powerpoint slide showing evidence of illegal government spying on its own people means that Snowden somehow “stole” so-called “classified information is a complete and utter falsehood. It’s an outright lie.

    You’re making it sound as though Snowden stole blueprints of some secret missile and sent them to China. That’s a lie, it’s an obvious lie, and you’re stupid if you think anyone is going to believe that grotesquely stupid and obvious lie.

    What Snowden really did was to reveal that the NSA was illegally and massively spying on the American people. This reveals no secrets to the Chinese or the Russian or anyone else, other than the alleged “secret” that the U.S. government is in gross violation of the constitution of the united states.

    You can keep telling foolishly obvious lies about Snowden’s mythical “stolen” so-called “classifed information” but you’re only making it increasingly clear to everyone on this forum that you’re an authoritarian thug who worships a U.S. government that lies to you and spies on you and uses the constitution as a piece of toilet paper, regardless how many crimes the U.S. government commits against its own people.

    That’s the very definition of a cowardly Quisling and a bully worshiper.

    Incidentally, if you consider revelation of the U.S. government’s illegal activities to be “stealing” of “classified information,” then the entire staff of the New York Times should be tried for treason and shot, because the New York Times has revealed many instances in which the U.S. government committed crimes. The New York Times reported on torture at Abu Ghraib: aha! Arrest the New York Times news staff for treason! They have stolen a great deal of classified information! (The torture was secret, and therefore classified; the New York Times revealed that information, which according to you is “stealing” of “classified information.”)

    The New York Times broke the story that there were now WMDs in Iraq back in 2003. Arrest the New York Times news staff for treason! They have stolen the classified information! that there were no nuclear or biological weapons in Iraq.

    The New York Times broke the story that president Obama has a secret kill list he uses in a drone assassination program to murder innocent bystanders in wedding parties, some as young as teenage girls. Arrest the New York Times news staff for treason! They have stolen the classified information! that Obama is murdering children with drones in a secret program.

    According to you, any crime the U.S. government commits which it then classifies as “secret” constitutes a vital state national security secret, and anyone who reveals those crimes by the U.S. government is guilty of “stealing” so-called “classified information.”

    You disgust me.

    What a craven crawling toady you are. You’re a born lickspittle, the epitome of the cringing wormlike coward who licks the boot that stamps him in the face and kisses the police baton that beats him to death. There seems to be no crime by America’s elites that you won’t excuse, and no truth told by courageous patriots revealing those crimes that you won’t condemn.

  124. 124
    Cervantes says:

    @Corner Stone: This one is still currently my personal favorite:

    This seems to assume that Snowden’s actions have all been voluntary. It could very well be that he got into the whistleblower game with much lower aims and was eventually turned, forced to go much further than he planned. If that’s the case, then you’ve got to ask who might have turned him, then wonder about that party’s motives.

    But that party might have been turned, too, so you have to wonder about that. And so on.

    It would appear to a naive observer that an odd number of turns is bad and an even number is good — but that assumes two parties. Generally speaking, parties are nice, but with more than two, it gets complicated.

    It’s a good thing our best minds are working on this.

    (They are, right?)

  125. 125
    Corner Stone says:

    @Cervantes: You think you have outwitted me, but I have a riposte that will challenge you like none other.
    Read this and tell me if the commenter is supportive, and if so, of whom?

    I can support the issue that he’s pro rendition, which I am not, and the bullshit he stated about Egypt being pro-human rights, which is bullshit. But to say he’s a “torture lover” is pretty much hyperbole. Is he wrong that some of this has born fruit? Yes. Is he dissembling in support of an administration that tortures? Yes. Would I apply torture lover to others in administration? Hell, yes

    No peeking.

  126. 126
    mclaren says:

    @burnspbesq:

    I am still at a loss to explain …

    That’s your natural state, burnspbesq.

    You’re at a loss to explain how a joint resolution of congress, the AUMF, can magically erase the fourth amendment (no unreasonable search and seizure) and the fifth amendment (due process) and the sixth amendment (requirement of habeas corpus and arraignment and charges and jury trial) and the eighth amendment (no cruel and unusual punishment) and the fourteenth amendment (no violation of the citizens’ civil rights).

    You try and try and try to explain how a mere joint resolution of congress can make it legal for America to send death squads all over the world…but at the end of the day, you just can’t manage to explain that whopper. You’re at a loss.

    You try and try and try to explain how a mere joint resolution of congress can make it legal for the president of the united states to murder women and children in wedding parties with drones in countries we’re not at war with…but at the end of the day, you just can’t manage to explain that whopper either. Once again, you’re at a loss.

    You try and try and try to explain how a mere joint resolution of congress can make it legal for the president of the united states to order the murder of U.S. citizens like Anwar Al-Awlaki without charges or a trial…but at the end of the day, you just can’t manage to explain that whopper either. Once again, you’re at a loss.

    You try and try and try to explain how a mere joint resolution of congress can make it legal for the president of the united states to order the kidnapping and torture of U.S. citizens like Jose Padilla without charges or a trial…but once again, you can’t quite explain the alleged legalities of that gross crime to anyone’s satisfaction. Yet again you find yourself at a loss.

    You try and try and try to explain how a mere joint resolution of congress can authorize and make legal a gigantic global war on terror that trashes the constitution, makes it allegedly “legal” for the president to order death squads to kill anyone on earth without a trial or charges, to kidnap U.S. citizens, to order entire cities like Boston Massachusetts locked down and patrolled by U.S. military with tanks and automatic weapons just because two kids blew up some black powder in a pressure cooker…but try as you might, you just can’t explain these bizarreries and grotesqueries in a way that anyone finds credible. You find yourself at a loss.

    Yes, burnspbesq, you’re constantly at a loss. As the Josef Streicher for a lawless regime that has thrown out the rule of law and emabrked on a rampage of barbarism and unconstitutional crimes including panopticon spying on its own citizenry, extrajudicial murder of U.S. citizens, kidnapping and torture of U.S. citizens, abandonment of the bill of rights, suspension of basic rights like the right to a jury trial or the right to hear the charges against you before you’re punished, you have racked up a long long long list of explanations, none of which hold water.

    You tell us that a mere joint resolution by congress wipes out the Bill of Rights. You tell us that a mere secret order by the president of the united states erases the fifth amendment requirement of due process. You tell us that an out-of-control so-called “War On Terror” which as never actually succeeded in catching and trying and convicting any terrorists is legally justified by fifty-six flimsy words dreamed up by some hack in the West Wing and named the AUMF. You explain and explain and explain, burnsie, but nobody’s buying your horseshit anymore.

    No one.

    More than eleven years ago, Congress authorized the Iraq War. This week, the White House voiced its support for finally repealing that authorization, conceding that the law has outlived its usefulness. This is good news. But repealing the authorization for the use of force in Iraq is not enough. It’s time to repeal the authorization for the War on Terror itself..

    Immediately after the attacks of September 11, Congress passed the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, or the “AUMF.” It was an incredibly short resolution – just one sentence. But the power it handed to the president was nearly limitless. And rather than fading out of use, its power seems to grow with time..

    How can the National Security Agency maintain its sweeping, invasive spying program? The only justification is the AUMF. Where did the president get the authority to indefinitely detain people for over a decade without charge or explanation? The AUMF provides that power, of course. Can U.S. citizens be targeted by drones for assassination without due process? Sure, says the AUMF..

    It is doubtful that members of Congress envisioned the future they were creating when they voted “yes” for the AUMF in 2001. But now that future is the present world we live in, and it is time to re-examine it. Is it safer? Is it more secure? As Americans, do we have more liberty? As global citizens, are we leading by example to bring about justice and the rule of law? There is a strong case to be made that the answer to each of those questions is a resounding no, and it is directly because of the AUMF..

    It is impossible to discuss the issues of warrantless wiretapping, the war in Afghanistan, the detention facility at Guantanamo or targeted drone strikes without discussing the AUMF. These troubling practices are only possible because they are considered “incidents of war” that are covered by the sweep of the AUMF’s authority.

    For the duration of the war, the AUMF provides the president full authority to continue or even enhance these practices. But how long will that be? By passing the AUMF, Congress essentially gave the president the ability to wage war anywhere, against anyone, at any time. As a result, acts of war have spread outside Afghanistan to places such as Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. Individuals with tenuous ties not to al Qaida, but to vaguely-defined “associated forces” are the targets of drones and indefinite detention. The globe is the new battlefield, and all its citizens are potential targets.

    Source: A HREF=”http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/world-report/2014/01/10/repeal-the-aumf-and-end-the-war-on-terror”>”Repeal the AUMF and end the War on Terror,” U.S. News and World Report, January 2014.

    You explain and explain and explain to us, burnspbesq, the alleged legalities of these grossly illegal U.S. government atrocities. You keep trying to justify the unustifiable crimes of the U.S. government against the rule of law and the constitution of the united states. Yet you always find yourself at a loss. Your explanations never wash. Your justifications never make legal or constitutional sense.

    The AUMF is illegal because it is too broad. The AUMF is unconstitutional because it violates almost every amendment of the constitution. The AUMF is an illegal act of congress because it has the force of law, yet unlike a bill which enacts a law the AUMF has multiple subjects. The AUMF is null and void because it empowers an infinite and limitless set of government actions without bound and without end in scope. The AUMF is a legal atrocity because it so wildly over-broad that it can be interpreted to legalize any possible government action, up to and including genocide and child rape and mass nuclear carpet-bombing (remember: the AUMF authorizes the president to take “any action” required to “end terorrism” worldwide…and if the president thinks we need to use nuclear carpet-bombing of some other country, why, find and dandy! And if the president says we need to use mass rape of some other country’s women to end terrorism, well, that’s just what it takes, buckaroo. And if the president decides we need to line up the entire population of some third world country in front of a slit trench and shoot ’em in the head, all 50 million of them, too bad, folks, that’s what’s necessary. The AUMF recognize no limits whatsoever in what it potentially authorizes the president to do to “end terror” — and since terrorism can never be definitively ended forever, this means that the AUMF authorizes the president to break any law and commit any crime forever, anywhere on earth, with limit in time or space. That’s the very definition of a grossly illegal act of congress.)

    Yes, burnsie, you’re at a loss.

    You as a lawyer should be the first one to stand up and denounce the U.S. governement’s illegal unconstitutional rampages misnamed a “war on terror.” But you haven’t. Instead, your squirmed and twisted and convulsed yourself into pretzels of illogic trying to explain away and justify America’s lawless slide into undeclared nationwide martial law…but no matter how convoluted your legal explanations, burnspbesq, you find yourself at a loss.

  127. 127
    johnny aquitard says:

    @Ash Can: Do you have any opinion about what that information means for us citizens and our supposed civil liberties and freedoms?

    You say the act by which we got the information about the activities of the NSA is illegal. Do you have anything at all to say about the legality of those activities?

    Because it sure as hell sounds like what has been classified top secret is that the law has been broken continually by the NSA.

    Why is it so important you learn this from the NY Times or congressional committee? Do you not realize we’ve never heard about this for the years its been going on precisely because your ‘approved’ conduits for informing the people of this level of law breaking are compromised or incapable of doing that?

    I don’t know what Snowden’s motives are. I do know he exposed a helluva lot of law breaking, the kind that goes right to the existential core of this country.

    And all you can see in all this is how Snowden didn’t do it the way you and the people and the agencies he exposed wanted him to.

  128. 128
    mclaren says:

    @johnny aquitard:

    And all you can see in all this is how Snowden didn’t do it the way you and the people and the agencies he exposed wanted him to.

    And the irony? Snowden tried to go through channels. Snowden has documented ten separate instances where he raised constitutional concerns and tried to go through channels. In every single case he got shut down by the bureaucrats.

    So what was Snowden supposed to do?

    When the government is breaking the law and you try to go through channels and the gov’t agency refuses to do anything, what are you supposed to do?

  129. 129
    Cassidy says:

    @mclaren: More liberaltarian claptrap.

  130. 130
    Cervantes says:

    @Corner Stone:

    You think you have outwitted me, but I have a riposte that will challenge you like none other. Read this and tell me if the commenter is supportive, and if so, of whom?
    I can support the issue that he’s pro rendition, which I am not, and the bullshit he stated about Egypt being pro-human rights, which is bullshit. But to say he’s a “torture lover” is pretty much hyperbole. Is he wrong that some of this has born fruit? Yes. Is he dissembling in support of an administration that tortures? Yes. Would I apply torture lover to others in administration? Hell, yes

    You know, I could have sworn it was our friend in Southern California attacking me for this comment — but I can’t seem to find it in that thread. (I did look there. Was that peeking? Sorry.)

  131. 131
    mclaren says:

    @Cassidy:

    Alas, so true. The constitution of the united states is a communist plot.

  132. 132
    burnspbesq says:

    @mclaren:

    So what’s you’re really telling us is: people who reveal that our government is committing crimes are evil traitors who must be tried and sent to prison…while the government agencies that commit these massive crimes should be rewarded and coddled and praised.

    Do you deny that, on the facts currently known, there is ample ground to conclude that Snowden committed at least three felonies, and possibly more? If you do, what is the factual and legal basis for your denial?

  133. 133
    Rex Everything says:

    @Ash Can:

    anti-Obama-admin crusade

    That is just moronic.

  134. 134
    mclaren says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Do you deny that, on the facts currently known, there is ample ground to conclude that Snowden committed at least three felonies, and possibly more? If you do, what is the factual and legal basis for your denial?

    Of course I deny on the basis of both the facts and the law that there is probable cause to conclude that Snowden committed any felonies.

    Under In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, Snowden committed no felonies. None. Zero. In the Winship case, the appellate court held that

    …The Due Process clause protects the accused against conviction except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which he is charged.

    The so-called “crimes” you falsely allege against Snowden are the violations specific in ch. 30, tit. I § 3, 40 Stat. 217, 219, the Espionage Act of 1917. But what does the Espionage Act actually say?

    The Espionage Act of 1917 (based on the earlier Defense Secrets Act of 1911) makes it a crime

    …to convey information with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the armed forces of the United States or to promote the success of its enemies.

    Revealing a set of powerpoint slides that show that the U.S. government is spying on its own citizens cannot even remotely be construed as an “intent to interfere with the operation of success of the armed forces of the United States” and so constitutes no crime whatsoever under the 1917 Espionage Act.

    But perhaps, burnspbesq, you refer to putative criminal charges under the notorious Amendment to the 1917 Espionage Act. The Amendement made it a crime to utter

    …any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States…or the flag of the United States, or the uniform of the Army or Navy.

    In that case, Snowden is certainly guilty of a felony under that particular infamous and highly controversial Amendment — but so is John Cole, and so are you, and so am I, and so are about 90% of the people on this forum, and the vast majority of American citizens in this country today.

    Every reasonable person regards the behavior of the United States government in torturing detainees and kidnapping U.S. citizens without charges and murdering U.S. citizens without a trial and without charges and wiretapping every U.S. citizens cellphone and email without a warrant as gross atrocities and abominations. These actions by the U.S. government since September 2001 constitute appalling illegalities. The behavior of the U.S. government since 9/11 has been a shitstain on the rule of law, a grotesque travesty of legal practice debased even beyond the depredations of William the Conquerer — who asserted the right to torture and murder his own subjects, but at least admitted he had the legal obligation to explain to his barons why he had tortured and murdered his own subjects. But George W. Bush and then Barack Obama have argued in courts of law that they are not even obliged to explain why they tortured and murdered U.S. citizens, citing alleged “national security.”

    Thus, when I state that commonplace belief that the United States government since 9/11 has made itslef a piece of excrement that gags the throats of any reasonable person with a respect for due legal process, I’m committing a felony under the Amendment to the 1917 Espionage Act — but so is everyone else who has spoken out against the abuses and lawless travesties of justice which the U.S. government has committed since 9/11.

    This makes the Amendment to the 1917 Espionage Act, practically speak, “dead letter law” — it condemns so many hundreds of millions of Amercians as felons for acts so commonly practiced, viz., criticizing the U.S. government unconstitutional and illegal violations of the constitutions under the so-called phony “War on Terror”, that legally speaking the Amendment to the 1917 Espionage Act is null and void.

    So let’s summarize, burnsie:

    [1] Under the 1917 Espionage Act itself, Snowden’s revelation of U.S. unconstitutional spying on its own citizens is in no way illegal; and, by In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, since the government has utterly failed to prove “every fact necessary to prove the crime with which he is charged,” any charges of espionage against Snowden are completely void of any legal basis or factual basis;

    [2] Since the Amendment of the 1917 Espionage Act is so overly broad that it in effect criminalizes any criticism of the U.S. government, the Amendment constitutes dead letter law and has no legal force whatsoever.

    So that’s the legal and factual basis.

    C’mon, burnspbesq. Cite the specific federal criminal statutes you falsely allege Snowden violated, and I’ll knock ’em down in numerical order. Provides the statues, burnsie, and legally speaking, I’ll rip your head off and shit down your neck.

    Oh — and, by the way, don’t dare try to make the bogus and long-discredited legal claim that “In re Winship is not legally revelant” because if we’re going to judge the law based on relevance, then both the 1917 Espionage Act and all other espionage statutes fall apart completely, because these federal statutes all deal with states of war and America is not in any conceivable way legally in a state of war now or at any time after 9/11, since America has not declared a specific enemy we are at war with, the U.S. congress has not declared war, and no factual basis for a state of war such a mass mobilization, a universal draft, or any other national defense authorization typical in a state of war applies.

    The dishonest and legally vacuous phrase “war on terror” is a term of art, a mere piece of rabble-rousing rhetoric. It has no legal force. America is not at war today with anyone anywhere, and cannot be at war legally inasmuch as ever since the Treaty of Westphalia, it has been recognized basic case law that only states may declare war, and then only against other states. Nations cannot legally declare war against individuals, or against reglious beliefs, or against forms of behavior. Thus I cannot legally declare war against Wal-Mart, nor can Exxon legally declare war against underage drinking, and finally and more important the United States government cannot legally declare war against “terrorism” (since terrorism is not a nation-state) any more than the United States government can legally declare war against obscene speech, against square dancing, or against Unitarianism.

  135. 135
    Barry says:

    @burnspbesq: “Do you deny that, on the facts currently known, there is ample ground to conclude that Snowden committed at least three felonies, and possibly more? If you do, what is the factual and legal basis for your denial? ”

    Do you deny that under the facts currently known the Bush administration committed a vast number of crimes?

  136. 136
    Odin says:

    The CIA has been a terrorist organization since its inception and has probably been torturing people that long. We know CIA operatives tortured Viet Minh prisoners during the Vietnam War so it’s hardly a new thing. The things they did with field telephones were probably the tip of the iceberg.

  137. 137
    mclaren says:

    @Barry:

    That’s not a legal justification for what Snowden did, however. The crimes of the previous administration cannot excuse crimes committed today.

    My point is that the legal and factual evidence shows that Snowden committed no crimes of any kind.

    Unless, of course, you consider saying “scurrilous” things about the government a crime. Scurrilous things like “the U.S. government is flagrantly violating the law.”

  138. 138
    mclaren says:

    Incidentally, you may ask from a legal standpoint why it matters whether America is in a legal state of war or not.

    Because the statutes like the Espionage Act of 1917 under which people like Snowden are supposed to be charged with a felony speak about “the enemies” of the United States. In every case, the putative felony involves “released information” to “enemies of the united states government.”

    But that raises a very serious legal question because if you’re not legally in a state of war, how do you legally ascertain who the enemies of the United States are?

    If America declares war, then it’s obvious who our enemies are. We can legally point to the declaration of war and bang, there you are. Those are our enemies and we have a factual and legal basis for proving that these are our enemies in a court of war.

    But if America is not legally in a state of declared war…who are our enemies?

    The most reasonable conclusion any legal thinker would have to draw in the case of Edward Snowden is that, since Snowden revealed U.S. government spying on the citizens of the United States, that therefore the factual and legal defnition of “enemies” according to federal statues like the Espionage Act of 1917 would be…the citizens of the United States of America.

    This becomes problematic, because as soon as the U.S. government legally defines its enemies as its own population, the entire legal justification for its prosecution evaporates.

    So it really does matter, from a legal standpoint, what the precise factual and legal defintion of the vague term “enemies” of the U.S. goverment in federal statues like the Espionage Act is. If we abandon precise legal and factual definition of the term “enemies,” we’re in very dangerous territory indeed — now we’re back in the McCarthy era, where “enemy of the state” means whatever any hatemonger wants it to mean. The so-called “enemies” of the U.S. government become labor organizers, antiwar demonstrators, anyone who criticizes the current president, someone who writes an op-ed you don’t like, and so forth.

    At that point, you’ve left the rule of law behind. Now you’re in the realm of Lucius Cornelius Sulla circa 82 B.C.:

    An early instance of mass proscription took place in 82 BC, when Lucius Cornelius Sulla was appointed dictator rei publicae constituendae (“Dictator for the Reconstitution of the Republic”). Sulla proceeded to have the Senate draw up a list of those he considered enemies of the state and published the list in the Roman Forum. Any man whose name appeared on the list was ipso facto stripped of his citizenship and excluded from all protection under law; reward money was given to any informer who gave information leading to the death of a proscribed man, and any person who killed a proscribed man was entitled to keep part of his estate (the remainder went to the state). No person could inherit money or property from proscribed men, nor could any woman married to a proscribed man remarry after his death. Many victims of proscription were decapitated and their heads were displayed on spears in the Forum.

    Source: Wikipedia article on “proscription.”

  139. 139
    Chris says:

    @mclaren:

    What I for one am asking from a legal standpoint is “under what rules (are there any?) is the U.S. government allowed to use military force without declaring war?” To pick the earliest foreign example I can think of, we never declared war on Tripoli or Algiers either, but we used the newborn Navy against them as if it had been a war just the same. Was that, also, illegal, as you understand it?

    I’m not baiting: I’m asking. I know the history (who fought who at what point, regardless of whether or not it was declared), but not the legal analysis behind the events.

  140. 140
    Cervantes says:

    @Chris:

    To pick the earliest foreign example I can think of, we never declared war on Tripoli or Algiers either, but we used the newborn Navy against them as if it had been a war just the same. Was that, also, illegal, as you understand it?

    While in that instance President Jefferson was quite scrupulous in asking the Congress for guidance per the Constitution, the question was made relatively simple by the Bey’s declaring war upon us.

    Conceding that absent the Bey’s declaration Congress would have had to vote to initiate a war, Hamilton argued that given the Bey’s declaration, we were already in a legal state of war and thus the need for a Congressional declaration was obviated. Both the Congress and the President accepted this argument. The Congress then produced the following statute (Act of February 6, 1802, Chapter 4, 2 Stat. 129):

    Whereas the regency of Tripoli, on the coast of Barbary, has commenced a predatory warfare against the United States:

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That it shall be lawful fully to equip, officer, man, and employ such of the armed vessels of the United States as may be judged requisite by the President of the United States, for protecting effectually the commerce and seamen thereof on the Atlantic ocean, the Mediterranean and adjoining seas.

    SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That it shall be lawful for the President of the United States to instruct the commanders of the respective public vessels aforesaid, to subdue, seize and make prize of all vessels, goods, and effects, belonging to the Bey of Tripoli, or to his subjects, and to bring or send the same into port, to be proceeded against, and distributed according to the law; and also to cause to be done all such other acts of precaution or hostility as the state of war will justify, and may, in his opinion, require.

    […]

    And with that, we were off to the races.

    I’m not baiting: I’m asking.

    Pretty clear.

  141. 141
    Chris says:

    @Cervantes:

    Eh. This argument appears to have been heated enough that I thought it wouldn’t hurt to clarify. Thanks for the explanation.

  142. 142
    Corner Stone says:

    Damn. The Smackdown. She has been broughten.

Comments are closed.