Over the past couple of weeks Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has been pumping out op-ed pieces for national newspapers in defense of the National Security Agency’s phone record collection program, arguing that the collection of millions of Americans’ communication data is not “surveillance” and “is necessary and must be preserved if we are to prevent terrorist attacks.”
Writing in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month, Feinstein, in a piece titled “The NSA Watchfulness Protects America,” the Senator justified the NSA spying by repeatedly referencing terror threats. The NSA, she concluded, is the United States’ best defense against those threats.
“The U.S. must remain vigilant against terrorist attacks against the homeland. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), considered the world’s most capable and dangerous terrorist organization, is determined to attack the United States,” the Senator wrote. “As we have seen since the ‘underwear bomber’ attempted to blow up an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, AQAP has developed nonmetallic bombs that can elude airport screeners, and the organization’s expert bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, remains at large.”
In a separate op-ed penned for USA Today’s Sunday edition, Feinstein reasserted he view that “the NSA call-records program is legal and subject to extensive congressional and judicial oversight” and “has been effective in helping to prevent terrorist plots against the U.S. and our allies.”
The Senator also argued that the NSA programs do not constitute “survelliance.”
“The call-records program is not surveillance. It does not collect the content of any communication, nor do the records include names or locations, she insisted. “The NSA only collects the type of information found on a telephone bill: phone numbers of calls placed and received, the time of the calls and duration. The Supreme Court has held this ‘metadata’ is not protected under the Fourth Amendment.
“This program helps ‘connect the dots’ — the main failure of our intelligence before 9/11. Former FBI director Robert Mueller and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified that if this program existed before 9/11, it likely would have identified the presence inside the U.S. of hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar,” Feinstein continued in the piece.
That the 80-year-old Senator likely does not understand the NSA technology enough to say with confidence that the agency is not “spying” on Americans aside, the fact that dozens of electronic privacy organizations and individuals throughout the United States are rallying loudly against the NSA’s tactics should be enough to prove she’s a liar.
If it’s not, NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden issued a statement to the American Civil Liberties Union Thursday—without directly mentioning Feinstein—hinting that she’s a liar.
Snowden remarked: “In the last four months, we’ve learned a lot about our government.
“We’ve learned that the U.S. intelligence community secretly built a system of pervasive surveillance. Today, no telephone in America makes a call without leaving a record with the NSA. Today, no internet transaction enters or leaves America without passing through the NSA’s hands. Our representatives in Congress tell us this is not surveillance. They’re wrong.”
The whistle-blower issued the statement to help promote a massive rally against NSA spying taking place this Saturday. The event was organized by the the StopWatching.Us coalition – a group of 100 organizations, companies, and public figures and has received the support of celebrities, politicians, and the whistleblower responsible for the public debate currently surrounding the government’s spying programs.
Saturday is the 12th anniversary of the signing of the Patriot Act into law.