What's happening today, March 12, 2014:
Senate Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein's speech on the Senate floor yesterday, where she suggested that the CIA may have violated the Constitution by monitoring her committee’s computers and seeking a criminal investigation into staffers has yielded her support from across the aisle. Republican Lindsey Graham called the allegations "Richard Nixon stuff," offering that "the legislative branch should declare war on the CIA" if Feinstein's allegations are true. Republican John McCain also slammed the CIA chief, saying he had never had much confidence in him and calling Feinstein’s allegations “disturbing.” He said the allegations worthy of an independent investigation because of “allegations of bias” that exist on both sides of the aisle. Other Republican senators, like Saxby Chambliss and Marco Rubio, questioned Feinstein’s allegations, insisting they didn’t know the facts and that the story is likely “more complicated” than Feinstein is making out to be. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, meanwhile, called Feinstein out as a hypocrite for only caring about government spying when it involves her staffers.
Later in the day, White House spokesman Jay Carney acknowledged that the CIA had told the administration that it was filing a criminal complaint with the Justice Department accusing Senate staffers of engaging in hacking for accessing a report that Feinstein contends the CIA actually provided to them. The White House did not weigh in on the situation.
New in analysis:
At Mother Jones, David Corn appears to agree with Graham, calling the dispute between Feinstein and the CIA the making of a "constitutional crisis." Corn writes:
What Feinstein didn't say—but it's surely implied—is that without effective monitoring, secret government cannot be justified in a democracy. This is indeed a defining moment. It's a big deal for President Barack Obama, who, as is often noted in these situations, once upon a time taught constitutional law. Feinstein has ripped open a scab to reveal a deep wound that has been festering for decades.
Feinstein's allegations may have nothing to do with the massve NSA surveillance operations she has spent the better part of the last year defending, except that both the NSA's programs directed at American citizens and the CIA's alleged targeting of Feinstein's committee and staffers involve abuse of surveillance power by the executive branch. When it comes to the NSA, Feinstein has defended the feds' actions, insisting her committee was providing sufficient oversight of the NSA's programs, even though the American public, and many of those members of Congress not on intelligence committees, didn't know about the scale of the NSA's activities until Edward Snowden's disclosures. The outrage from Lindsey Graham, another apologist of the surveillance state, suggests that despite the self-serving nature of Feinstein's displeasure it could force the Obama administration to make substantive concessions to the legislative branch on at least one sub-set of surveillance, that of elected officials and thier staffers. The Congress was unable, and perhaps unwilling, to force such concessions on behalf of Americans being spied on.