A couple of days ago we were treated to headlines like this one from the Guardian, “NSA: Dianne Feinstein breaks ranks to oppose US spying on allies,” which is much like this other one, “US surveillance has gone too far, John Kerry admits.”
For a really dramatic read, here’s The Cable at ForeignPolicy.com:
‘We’re Really Screwed Now’: NSA’s Best Friend Just Shivved The Spies
One of the National Security Agency’s biggest defenders in Congress is suddenly at odds with the agency and calling for a top-to-bottom review of U.S. spy programs. And her long-time friends and allies are completely mystified by the switch.
“We’re really screwed now,” one NSA official told The Cable. “You know things are bad when the few friends you’ve got disappear without a trace in the dead of night and leave no forwarding address.”
All of this needs to be read very carefully. Feinstein is opposed to subjecting those whom she regards as her foreign political equals from the same treatment she is happy for the NSA to bestow upon Americans. In fact, her new NSA bill does nothing but “codify and extend” the NSA’s violations of the privacy of Americans, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation reported yesterday.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and one of the NSA’s biggest defenders, released what she calls an NSA “reform” bill today.
Don’t be fooled: the bill codifies some of the NSA’s worst practices, would be a huge setback for everyone’s privacy, and it would permanently entrench the NSA’s collection of every phone record held by U.S. telecoms. We urge members of Congress to oppose it.
…instead of listening to her constituents, Sen. Feinstein put forth a bill designed to allow the NSA to monitor their calls. Sen. Feinstein wants the NSA to continue to collect the metadata of every phone call in the United States—that’s who you call, who calls you, the time and length of the conversation, and under the government’s interpretation, potentially your location—and store it for five years. This is not an NSA reform bill, it’s an NSA entrenchment bill.
Other parts of the bill claim to bring a modicum of transparency to small parts of the NSA, but requiring some modest reporting requirements, like how many times NSA searches this database and audit trails for who does the searching.
But its real goal seems to be to just paint a veneer of transparency over still deeply secret programs. It does nothing to stop NSA from weakening entire encryption systems, it does nothing to stop them from hacking into the communications links of Google and Yahoo’s data centers, and it does nothing to reform the PRISM Internet surveillance program.
So when you hear about how Feinstein is “at odds” with the NSA, remember that has nothing to do with the NSA’s unconstitutional domestic spying operations. She just wants her trips abroad to be less awkward. And every time you hear a talking head speak of Feinstein’s “reform bill,” say to yourself “empowerment bill.”