Credit: United States Congress, US Senate Photo/wikimediaCredit: United States Congress, US Senate Photo/wikimediaYesterday, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) went to the Senate chamber and confirmed a story published last week, in which Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) is quoted as saying that the CIA had taken “unprecedented action” against the Senate Intelligence Committee, which was investigating the agency’s detention and interrogation program. In yesterday’s speech, Feinstein said that the CIA had searched the computers being used in the investigation without asking the committee. CIA Director John Brennan has issued a vague denial of Feinstein’s accusations and has not issued a detailed response.  

Reason’s Scott Shackford outlined Feinstein’s 50-minute speech yesterday.

Feinstein has been one of the NSA’s staunchest supporters in the wake of reporting on the information leaked by whistle-blower Edward Snowden. She has said that Snowden committed treason and that he should not be granted clemency.

Unsurprisingly, Snowden has called Feinstein out for her hypocritical complaints relating to her committee’s computers being snooped on, saying that her protests are the latest example of the "Merkel effect" (being fine with the rights of millions being violated because of mass surveillance but expressing outrage when you are the target of spying).  

News of Snowden’s statement on Feinstein’s statement came on the same day that Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, called for an online Magna Carta.

Credit: WikimediaCredit: WikimediaThe original Magna Carta, which was signed almost 800 years ago, was drawn up by English barons who wanted to limit the powers of King John and have their rights protected. It declared (among other things) that:

No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.

Legal documents such as the U.S. Bill of Rights can trace their roots back to the Magna Carta, and there is a copy of it in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Berners-Lee’s plan for a bill of rights for the web is being taken up as part of the Web We Want initiative which, as The Guardian explains, "calls on people to generate a digital bill of rights in each country—a statement of principles he hopes will be supported by public institutions, government officials, and corporations."

Of course, it is unlikely that an online Magna Carta is going to deter governments around the world from carrying out mass surveillance. The U.S. government has already shown that it is willing to trample on the rights guaranteed in already existing legal documents.

More from Reason on the NSA and surveillance here and here.