Tuesday, 11 March 2014

How dare you spy on ME?

California senator Dianne Feinstein’s tardy but nonetheless welcome denunciation of the CIA’s domestic snooping—of Congress itself, no less—is a watershed moment in our slow descent to rule by the secret state. We usually can only surmise what is going on in the shadows of power and what tools of coercion, intimidation and threat are being deployed to get the ostensible guardians of our civil polity to do what the military-industrial-corporate complex wants done. But this time, it’s right out in the open.

Feinstein reacted to the CIA’s attempt to criminalize oversight of its behavior. It’s repugnant enough, though hardly surprising, when the spymasters try to crush someone like Edward Snowden or John Kiriakou, employees, in-house or contracted, who blow the whistle on what is happening from inside. But when the secret state deploys the same tactics against another branch of government, i.e., the legislature explicitly charged with keeping tabs on executive power, we are looking at potentially a constitutional crisis.

Feinstein herself said as much in her Senate speech today. She referred to the Constitution, citing the “separation of powers principles.” You can hardly get more direct than that, and it’s only a pity that it took Feinstein this long to realize the danger to the republic of letting the CIA get away with everything for so many years—for which she personally has a lot to answer for.

One of the most amazing aspects of the CIA threat against the staff of the Senate oversight committee is that the author of this gambit is none other than one of the targets of their lengthy investigation of the practice of torture. Robert Eatinger is mentioned by name throughout the vast torture report that the CIA is trying to keep under wraps, so far successfully. It’s quite a commentary on the debasement of our legal system that someone so personally interested in the outcome of an investigation is the main lawyer for the outfit suing to suppress it.

It’s at least ironic that Feinstein would finally drag out the Fourth Amendment after she and her president have done everything they could to dismantle the sentiments embodied in that worthy phrase. Better late than never, but the question now is, Is it TOO late?

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