With a few conservatives, such as Senator Rand Paul, on board, the radical left is gearing up for a replay of its 1970s campaigns against the intelligence gathering activities of the U.S. Government. Back then it was the FBI and CIA. This time, the target is the National Security Agency (NSA).
But the left is facing a big problem—the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein of California, is not going along with their campaign.
The big surprise, according to a July 1st New York Times article, is that the “California Democrat and liberal lioness” is leaving “many of her allies on the left dismayed” because she has emerged as “perhaps the most forthright and unapologetic Congressional defender of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.”
Reporter Jeremy W. Peters of the Times seemed astonished that Feinstein “says she is resolute that the danger from terrorists demands an aggressive national security apparatus.” Feinstein was identified in the story not only as chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, but as “one of the few Americans with detailed knowledge of the N.S.A.’s efforts.”
What’s more, she is standing up to the left’s demands to curtail the powers of the NSA. “I feel I have an obligation to do everything I can to keep this country safe,” Feinstein told the Times. “So put that in your pipe and smoke it.”
The paper noted that she described NSA leaker Edward Snowden as committing “an act of treason” against the U.S.
A week earlier, The Washington Post had labeled Feinstein the “chief congressional defender of the surveillance program,” and one who engages in “excruciatingly detailed preparation” when conducting hearings on such matters.
The focus on Feinstein comes as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR, an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood) is co-sponsoring a “Restore the Fourth” anti-NSA Rally in Washington, D.C. on July 4. CAIR says the rally is to “demand the protection of Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures” from the NSA. In addition to CAIR, the sponsors of the rally include the Institute for Policy Studies, which has a record of working with Marxist regimes; the National Lawyers Guild, once officially identified as a Communist front; and the Free Press, a George Soros-funded “media reform” organization.
But the event will also feature a video message from Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has been sympathetic to NSA leaker Edward Snowden and has introduced a bill, “The Fourth Amendment Restoration Act” (S.1121). The legislation has no co-sponsors in the Senate.
The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), which has received almost $1 million from George Soros and his foundations over the last five years, is involved in the July 4 protests while at the same time calling for Congress to investigate and curb the powers of the NSA.
But despite the media pressure that is being brought to bear on Feinstein, the congressional investigations to curb the NSA seem to be going nowhere.
In the House, the left has found a useful ally on the Republican side. Tea Party favorite Rep. Justin Amash has joined long-time leftist Rep. John Conyers to introduce a bill, the Limiting Internet and Blanket Electronic Review of Telecommunications and Email Act (H.R. 2399), to restrict the ability of the NSA under the Patriot Act to collect information that could be useful in terrorist or espionage investigations.
However, it is doubtful that the bill will go anywhere in the House, since Speaker John Boehner has defended the NSA programs, saying on ABC News that he was “briefed on all of these programs,” that they were passed by “broad bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate,” and are subject to “clear safeguards.” The Speaker added, “There’s no American who’s gonna be snooped on in any way—unless they’re in contact—with some terrorists somewhere around the world.” He calls Edward Snowden a traitor.
Support for the NSA is bipartisan. House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Ranking Member C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) have issued a joint statement defending the NSA programs. Rogers describes Snowden as being “in the loving arms of the Russian intelligence services” and wants him brought back to face espionage charges, while Ruppersberger said of Snowden, “He’s not a hero, based on the evidence that I have—he needs to be held accountable.”
On the Senate side, Feinstein dismissed two NSA critics on her committee, Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, as “Two people out of 15,” and insisted the NSA programs had caught terrorists such as Najibullah Zazi, who pleaded guilty to plotting to bomb the New York City subway. She told the Times, “What do you think would happen if Najibullah Zazi was successful? There would be unbridled criticism. Didn’t we learn anything? Can’t we protect our homeland? What good is intelligence if we can’t stop this? So there’s a flip side to all this.”
Feinstein has been equally tough on the problem of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose disclosures included classified counter-terrorism information, urging prosecution of Assange under the Espionage Act. She actually wrote a Wall Street Journal article under that headline, “Prosecute Assange Under the Espionage Act,” describing him as “an agitator intent on damaging our government” and whose disclosures could hurt people.
From his perch at the “Peace and Justice Resource Center,” former SDS leader Tom Hayden attacked Feinstein for her views on Assange, insisting that “she has failed in her oversight responsibilities” of secret operations. Hayden operated during the anti-Vietnam War protests as a virtual agent of the Communist regime in Hanoi, North Vietnam.
Glenn Greenwald, the mouthpiece and handler for Edward Snowden, himself attacked Feinstein last year as the “supreme Senate defender of state secrecy and the Surveillance State.”
Perhaps this column was a factor in Feinstein’s notable lack of sympathy for Snowden.
More recently, on the left-wing “Democracy Now!” radio/TV show hosted by Amy Goodman, Greenwald said “the idea that he [Snowden] has harmed national security is truly laughable” and accused Feinstein of “outright lying” when she said she had seen no evidence of NSA abuses.
Such comments may convince Feinstein to support efforts to charge Greenwald with espionage over his role in facilitating Snowden’s disclosures and travels.
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, and can be contacted at [email protected].