Thursday, August 01, 2013






Senator Patrick Leahy: Today, the, uh, Judiciary Committee will scrutinize government surveillance programs conducted on the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act or FISA.  In the years since September 11th,  Congress has repeatedly expanded the scope of FISA, has given the government sweeping new powers to collect information on law abiding Americans and we must carefully consider now whether those laws may have gone too far.  Last month, many Americans learned for the first time that one of these authorities, Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, has for years been secretly interpreted -- secretly interpreted -- to authorize the collection of Americans' phone records on an unprecedented scale.  Information was also leaked about Section 702 of FISA which authorizes the NSA to collect the information of foreigners overseas.

That was Leahy at this morning's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing -- he is the Chair of the Committee.  From there Leahy embarrassed himself by attacking NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden while not naming him. Let's continue with Leahy.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Let me make clear that I do not condone the way these and other highly classified programs were disclosed, and I am concerned about the potential damage to our intelligence-gathering capabilities and national security. We need to hold people accountable for allowing such a massive leak to occur, and we need to examine how to prevent this type of breach in the future. In the wake of these leaks, the President said that this is an opportunity to have an open and thoughtful debate about these issues. And I welcome that statement, because this is a debate that several of us on this Committee in both parties have been trying to have for years. Like so many others, I'll get the classified briefings but then of course you can't talk about them.  There's a lot of these things that  should be and can be discussed.   And if we are going to have the debate that the President called for, the executive branch must be a full partner. We need straightforward answers.  Now I am concerned that we are not getting them. Just recently, the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged that he provided false testimony about the NSA surveillance programs during a Senate hearing in March, and his office had to remove a fact sheet from its website after concerns were raised about its accuracy. I appreciate that it is difficult to talk about classified programs in public settings, but the American people expect and deserve honest answers. It also has been far too difficult to get a straight answer about the effectiveness of the Section 215 phone records program. Whether this program is a critical national security tool is a key question for Congress as we consider possible changes to the law. Some supporters of this program have repeatedly conflated the efficacy of the Section 215 bulk meta data collection program with that of Section 702 of FISA even though they're entirely different. I do not think this is a coincidence, when we have people in government make that comparison but it needs to stop. I think the patience of the American people is beginning to wear thin.  But what has to be of more concern in a democracy is the trust of the American people is wearing thin.

Leahy is part of the problem.  He had to be shamed into holding this hearing and have it thrown in his face repeatedly that the House Judiciary Committee had held a hearing.  Forced into holding a hearing, note the crap Leahy offers.

He doesn't approve of NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden's actions and "we need to hold people accountable" as he worries about "the potential damage to our intelligence-gathering capabilities and national security."

Contrast that with James Clapper.  Leahy says Clapper "acknowledged that he provided false testimony about the NSA surveillance programs during a Senate hearing in March."

I'm sorry, where's your outrage over that?  Where's your statement about the need for accountability for that?

Has Leahy forgotten what perjury and "contempt of Congress" are?

Has he forgotten that is a crime to provide Congress with false testimony?

That's regardless of whether or not the witness is put under oath.

So the way it works is that Leahy is outraged and wants accountability -- done by others.  But Leahy and other members of Congress refuse to exercise their power to punish an official who came before the Congress and lied.

The American people are exhausted, yes.  They are tired of the spying but they're most of all tired of the lazy and useless people they voted into the US Congress who refuse to do their jobs or to honor their oaths to uphold the Constitution.  As Ranking Member Charles Grassley observed, "We have a Constitutional duty to protect American's privacy.  That's a given."

Yes, it is.  And maybe we need Grassley to offer a briefer on that to the Committee?

We should actually thank Leahy because, in his opening remarks, he made it clear that he really didn't give a damn about accountability or Congressional oversight.  He made it clear how useless he and his Committee are.

He did so by fawning over Dianne Feinstein ahead of the meeting, in fact.  The ethically challenged DiFi who has abused her office also heads the Senate Intelligence Committee.  DiFi does a lot.  When not practicing nepotism and worse, she likes to pretend she's governor of California -- an office she's never held.  It's in that delusional capacity that she recently insisted that San Diego Mayor Bob Filner should resign.  That's not her damn business and she needs to take her big nose out of it.  (As noted Monday, that decision is up to the people of San Diego.  I live in District 8, so I offer no opinion on what the 'right' thing to do is.  San Diego needs to be having that conversation with one another and they don't need the rest of us telling them what to do.)

It's amazing that she wants to talk about morals when, had Democrats not controlled the Senate, she would have most likely been censured by the Ethics Committee for her actions in giving her husband -- her War Hawk husband -- government contracts.

I think she a lot of gall even showing up for this hearing.

For those who don't know, Dianne Feinstein is the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. So when the NSA spying emerged in May, her tired ass should have been all over this issue with hearings.  How many public hearings has DiFi held on this issue?


She has not called one hearing.  (And she hasn't held a public hearing since March 13, 2013.  Someone needs to ask her what 'sunlight' and an 'informed public' mean to her.)  President Barack Obama claims a national dialogue needs to take place and Dianne Feinstein goes against that.  She's happy to hector and lecture, she just won't due the job required of her and schedule open hearings on this matter.

Today, she fawned over the unconstitutional spying and she also offered a disturbing series of remarks that indicated even she doesn't listen when she speaks.

Senator Dianne Feinstein:  Yesterday, at the Intelligence Committee,  I outlined some changes that we might consider as part of our authorization bill and let me quickly run through them.  Uh, uhm, the number of American phone numbers permitted as queries on a regular basis annually from the data base, the number of referrals  made to the FBI each year based on those queries and how many times the FBI obtains probably cause warrants to collect the content of a call which we now know is very few times relatively, the number of times a company, this is at their request -- from the high tech companies -- that any company is required to provide data pursuant to FISA's business record's provision.  As you know, the companies who provide information are seeking to be able to speak more publicly about this and I think we should.  There's some changes we can make to the business records section.  We're looking at reducing the five year retention period that NSA keeps phone records in its data base down to two or three years.

And Sarah Palin was ridiculed for how she spoke?  Sarah Palin was mocked in a Saturday Night Live skit for how she spoke?  I found that disturbing in real time -- and noted in real time that if you attended Congressional hearings, Palin's manner of speaking wasn't that surprising when compared to other politicians (changing topics -- or subjects or verbs -- mid-sentence, for example).  From those remarks above, let's highlight Dianne Feinstein saying this:

Uh, uhm, the number of American phone numbers permitted as queries on a regular basis annually from the data base, the number of referrals  made to the FBI each year based on those queries and how many times the FBI obtains probably cause warrants to collect the content of a call which we now know is very few times relatively, the number of times a company, this is at their request -- from the high tech companies -- that any company is required to provide data pursuant to FISA's business record's provision. 

Those aren't "changes."  They might be 'topics,' but what the hell she's saying who knows?

What's really disturbing is that those remarks weren't made in response to a question from Katie Couric.  DiFi made them herself, reading from a list, and never grasped that they didn't make sense.  Behavior like that, in our state of California (Dianne and mine), would mean she wouldn't get her driver's license renewed.

Along with her not making sense in the middle of a Senate hearing, there's also the reality that, if she wanted a debate on these topics yesterday, she should have chaired an open hearing and not the closed one Tuesday afternoon

Do we need to speak more slowly for Dianne?

Above you have Dianne Feinstein making ridiculous statement's.  It's not until the last sentence quoted that she finally does what she said she was going to do share "outlined" changes.
 At the age of 80, would you honestly let her drive the family car on a road trip or even a trip to the grocery store?

No, you probably wouldn't.

So why do we let her remain in the Senate, let alone give her the position of Chair.  This dying -- of old age -- in office really needs to be addressed by the Senate.  It's time for either term limits or age limits.  I do not trust the 80-year-old Dianne Feinstein to chair a Committee on anything.

"I think they will come after us," the dottering and aged fool insisted -- never defining who "they" were but making the case for putting her into assisted-living facilities.  We don't need the shut-in CBS viewers in charge of our rights?  We don't the need reactionary, elderly -- already spooked by societal changes -- determining what will keep us safe. Repeating: It's time for term limits or its time for age limits.  At 80, her fears falling out like busted sofa, Dianne Feinstein is too old to be a Chair of anything and should not be in the US Senate.

Dianne's way of fixing things is to insist that the actions continue but -- embrace this consolation -- the records from the spying will be held "two or three years" and not five.

"I read intelligence regularly, she insisted "and I believe we would place this country in jeopardy if we eliminated these two programs."

Though this morning's hearing served as a setting for various senators to make spectacles of themselves, there were actual witnesses offering testimony.  Appearing before the Committee were two panels.  The first was made up of Dept of Justice's James Cole, NSA's John Inglis, Office of the Director of National Intelligence's Robert S. Lift and the FBI's Sean Joyce.  The second panel was Judge James G. Carr, the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer and the woefully ignorant Stewart Baker.

Meta data, James Cole wanted to insist, is not classified information.  It is private information.  Many of us are aware, for example, that in the early hours of Marilyn Monroe's death, the Secret Service grabbed the meta data (then known as "toll slips") from the phone company.  So JFK deserves privacy but the American people don't?

Did anyone on the Committee not self-disgrace, is there any member of the Committee do anything worthy of applause?  Al Franken.

Senator Al Franken:  I want to be clear at the outset, I think that these programs protect our country and have saved lives.  But I do think there is a critical problem at the center of this debate and that's the lack of transparency around these programs.  The government has to give proper weight to both keeping America safe from terrorism and protecting American's privacy.  But when almost everything about these programs is secret and when the companies involved are under strict gag orders, the American public has no way of knowing whether we're getting that balance right.  I think that's bad for privacy and bad for democracy.  Tomorrow, I'm introducing a bill to address this, to fix this.  It will force the government to disclose how many Americans have had their information collected under key authorities in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and it will give force -- it will also force the government to disclose how many Americans have had their information actually reviewed by federal  agents.  My bill would also allow private companies to disclose aggregate figures about the number of FISA orders they're receiving and the number of their users that these orders have effected.

That may not be enough for you.  Sitting through the hearing -- the awful hearing -- you can argue lowered my expectations.  But I don't think so.

Recommend: "Iraq snapshot"
"Tough Talk For The Left (Ava and C.I.)"
"Who is Bradley Manning?"
 "The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing"
"Blumenthal disappoints (Ava)"
"David Westin is a creep"
"Leahy and Feinstein are disgraces"
"The embarrassing Bob Orr of CBS News"
"The Constitution has been shredded"
"Cancel Parks and Recreation already"
"C.I.'s coverage of the House Judiciary Committee hearing"
"Ron Wyden"
"Punchline: US Senate"