DNI’s recent letter (the “Letter”) to Feingold regarding FISA and in particular Section 702 (PDF here) underscores three things:
- Many in the blog and twittersphere are unable to read a letter longer than 140 characters;
- Feingold’s opposition to the FAA (FISA Amendments Act) is even more marginal politically today than during his quixotic stand in 2008; and
- The National Security Nomenklatura are secure enough to toss Feingold a marginal bone, showing no concerns about repercussion.
Feingold sought DNI permission to discuss three statements about the FAA. He wanted political cover to avoid claims of violating security and to lock DNI into a position.
Feingold’s most notable statement of the three submitted was that after 2008 FISC (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) ruled that the government acted unreasonably retaining information on AMCITs (American Citizens) in one instance. The Letter noted that FISC ruling but underscored remedial steps were since taken. Hardly the major admission characterized by breathless blog posts and tweets.
Long time readers know our background and experience with FISA and intelligence oversight going back decades. Here’s our verdict on this little dust up.
In boxing terms, Feingold didn’t even land a glove. If that’s all Feingold has to work with since 2008, stick a fork in it. DNI knows it, too. A FISC determination was made, and allegedly their concerns were followed. Rather than a black eye, this episode becomes a poster child for ‘rule of law.’ The Letter is typical Nomenklatura bureaucratese, feigning interest in cooperation with Feingold, civil rights, etc. But there’s also a barely concealed gloating underlying tone in the formality. They know Feingold’s got nothing to work on. And he’s probably even more alone in the Senate than in 2008.
A long time ago we wrote about how unlikely Congress could prevail in re-asserting meaningful intelligence oversight. And that assumed Congress as a separate and co-equal branch of government re-discovered itself.
Congress failed all of us at the beginning. With PATRIOT ACT (and blowing past its sunsets), with each subsequent compromise and a decade of Duma-like timidity. One or even a handful of Senators can’t revive an entire institution, let alone the other body.
We are all of us like the people in our short story in the link above, prey for what was once supposed to guard. Now that Obama normalized and put his bi-partisan (albeit of the Kenyan, socialist, KGB mole variety) imprimatur on Cheney’s excesses, we don’t foresee rollback in our lifetime.