By Doug Porter
The US intelligence community has always counted California’s Dianne Feinstein as a strong supporter. As head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, she countered attempts to rein in NSA surveillance by introducing legislation codifying many of the questionable practices.
She stepped right up to the plate within days after former contractor Edward Snowden handed out secret documents to reporters, denouncing him as a traitor.And it’s no secret that her campaigns are laden with hefty contributions from many of the companies who now do much of the heavy lifting for the military-intelligence industrial complex.
So it was kind of a big deal when she took to the floor of the Senate yesterday to accuse the CIA of obstruction and intimidation of her committee’s work on a five year old investigation into the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques.
From the Los Angeles Times:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the committee chairwoman, said the CIA secretly searched computers used by Senate staffers and might have violated constitutional provisions on separation of powers and unreasonable searches, a federal law on computer fraud and abuse, and a presidential order that prohibits the CIA from domestic searches and surveillance.
“I am not taking it lightly,” the normally strong advocate for U.S. intelligence agencies warned on the Senate floor.
Several hours later, CIA Director John Brennan denied that the CIA had spied on the Senate oversight committee or had hacked its computers.
Even the CIA’s own legal counsel has serious questions about their agency’s activities. From Feinstein’s Senate speech:
Besides the constitutional implications, the CIA search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.
Days after the meeting with Director Brennan, the CIA inspector general, David Buckley, learned of the CIA’s search and began an investigation into CIA’s activities. I have been informed that Mr. Buckley has referred the matter to the Department of Justice, given the possibility of a criminal violation by CIA personnel.
Despite media reports portraying this dispute as a turf war of sorts, the implications are much larger. David Corn, Washington Bureau chief for Mother Jones:
This unprecedented speech by Feinstein has ramifications beyond the immediate controversy over the CIA search. It undermines the basis for secret government.
The United States is a republic, and elected officials in all three branches are supposed to be held accountable by those famous checks and balances that school kids learn about in civics classes. When it comes to the clandestine activities of the US government—the operations of the CIA, the other intelligence outfits, and the covert arms of the military—the theory is straightforward: These activities are permitted only because there is congressional oversight. The citizenry is not told about such actions because doing so would endanger national security and render these activities moot. But such secret doings of the executive branch are permissible because elected representatives of the people in the legislative branch monitor these activities and are in a position to impose accountability….
…What Feinstein didn’t say—but it’s surely implied—is that without effective monitoring, secret government cannot be justified in a democracy. This is indeed a defining moment. It’s a big deal for President Barack Obama, who, as is often noted in these situations, once upon a time taught constitutional law. Feinstein has ripped open a scab to reveal a deep wound that has been festering for decades. The president needs to respond in a way that demonstrates he is serious about making the system work and restoring faith in the oversight of the intelligence establishment. This is more than a spies-versus-pols DC turf battle. It is a constitutional crisis.
Oh, and by the way, the bureaucratic struggle at the heart of this is a five year old quest by legislative branch of the government to get a report their staff wrote on “enhanced interrogation techniques” declassified.
Paul Ryan’s War on the Shiftless and Lazy
The best defense is a good offense, and the brain trust of the Republican Party has been busy in recent years manufacturing an ever-increasing pseudo-intellectual justification for a counterattack aimed at what Mitt Romney called the 47%.
Their head-spear carrier in this quest in recent times has been Congressman Paul Ryan, who manages to put an authoritative tone into various schemes by the party. Ryan who apparently has a problem with plagiarism and the truthfulness of the yarns he spins, may also have a problem with the veracity of his sources.
From Think Progress:
House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) previewed his upcoming legislative proposals for reforming America’s poverty programs during an appearance on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America Wednesday, hinting that he would focus on creating work requirements for men “in our inner cities” and dealing with the “real culture problem” in these communities. Ryan then went on to cite Charles Murray, a conservative social scientist who believes African-Americans are, as a population, less intelligent than whites due to genetic differences and that poverty remains a national problem because “a lot of poor people are born lazy.”
Raise Up San Diego, Raise Up “Managers”
A coalition of community groups under the banner of “Raise Up San Diego” are rallying today on the steps of City Hall with Council President Todd Gloria and other council members to show support for a local initiative to ensure all San Diegans have access to earned sick days and an increase in the minimum wage.
And in Washington DC, the New York Times says steps are being taken at the executive level to address in inequality gap:
President Obama this week will seek to force American businesses to pay more overtime to millions of workers, the latest move by his administration to confront corporations that have had soaring profits even as wages have stagnated.
On Thursday, the president will direct the Labor Department to revamp its regulations to require overtime pay for several million additional fast-food managers, loan officers, computer technicians and others whom many businesses currently classify as “executive or professional” employees to avoid paying them overtime, according to White House officials briefed on the announcement.
Mr. Obama’s decision to use his executive authority to change the nation’s overtime rules is likely to be seen as a challenge to Republicans in Congress, who have already blocked most of the president’s economic agenda and have said they intend to fight his proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour from $7.25.
This is a HUGE hole in the current scene of wages that should have been plugged years ago. Too many companies–especially in the hospitality business–over the years have avoided overtime and forced employees to work 60 and 70 hours a week simply by renaming their jobs.
I know. As a young man I was one of those employees. In many ways I think this executive action will impact the industry more than a minimum wage hike. So we should expect more declarations about Obama’s “dictatorship” by the Vladimir Putin lovers around the nation’s capital in the coming weeks.
Apology– Against the explicit wishes of the SDFP editorial board, an article was posted earlier today purporting to be an analysis of the past mayoral election. While we don’t expect to agree with everything on here, we do have a policy of reviewing articles that editors think might be outside the ‘Grassroot News and Progressive Views’ mission as stated on our banner.
The article in question in no way represented the viewpoints on the board, and for the first time in the history of this outfit, we voted to remove an article. Oh, the agonies of an all volunteer organization.
On This Day: 1933 – President Franklin Roosevelt presented his first presidential address to the nation. It was the first of the “Fireside Chats.” 1985 – Larry Bird (Boston Celtics) scored a club-record 60 points against the Atlanta Hawks. 2003 – The Chinese government ordered the Rolling Stones to eliminate four songs from their upcoming performances in Shanghai and Beijing. The banned songs were “Brown Sugar,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Beast of Burden,” and “Let’s Spend the Night Together.”
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