Senator Dianne Feinstein breaks with her pals in the spy game.

Senator Dianne Feinstein breaks with her pals in the spy game.

“Some of this reminds me of the classic movie “˜Casablanca’ “” “˜My God, there’s gambling going on here,’ “ Mr. Clapper said, twisting the line from the movie uttered by a corrupt French official who feigns outrage at the very activity in which he avidly partakes. [New York Times]

WHEN ASKED about the American spy game and the recent revelations of 70 million French phone records, as well as 60 million Spanish records, collected at the same time, Gen. Keith Alexander replied in testimony to the House Intelligence Community that it “represents information that we and our NATO allies have collected in defense of our countries and in support of military operations.”

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Senator Dianne Feinstein has come out and vocally criticized the NSA, breaking from her pals in the spy game. Foreign Policy had quite a post up recently on this break, titled “We’re Really Screwed Now”: NSA’s Best Friend Just Shivved The Spies.

A former intelligence agency liaison to Congress said Feinstein’s sudden outrage over spying on foreign leaders raised questions about how well informed she was about NSA programs and whether she’d been fully briefed by her staff. “The first question I’d ask is, what have you been doing for oversight? Second, if you’ve been reviewing this all along what has changed your mind?”

The former official said the intelligence committees receive lengthy and detailed descriptions every year about all NSA programs, including surveillance. “They’re not small books. They’re about the size of those old family photo albums that were several inches thick. They’re hundreds of pages long.”

A senior congressional aide said, “It’s an absolute joke to think she hasn’t been reading the signals intelligence intercepts as Chairman of Senate Intelligence for years.”

Tech Dirt has some questions for Senator Feinstein.

2. For all the bluster and anger from Feinstein about this, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s mandate is only about intelligence activities that touch on US persons, so it’s not even clear that she has any power over their activities strictly in foreign countries targeting foreign individuals. Why she seems to have expected the NSA to let her know about that when the NSA itself has been pretty explicit that avoids telling Congress about anything it can reasonably avoid telling them.

3. Feinstein has referred to Ed Snowden’s leak as “an act of treason.” Now that they’ve revealed something that she believes is improper and deserving of much greater scrutiny, is she willing to revisit that statement?

4. Given that Feinstein has been angrily banging the drum for months about how her oversight of the intelligence community shows that everything’s great, and there’s no risk of rogue activity — yet now she’s finally admitting that perhaps the oversight isn’t particularly comprehensive, is she willing to admit that her earlier statements are reasonably considered hogwash and discredited? She even says in her statement: “Congress needs to know exactly what our intelligence community is doing. To that end, the committee will initiate a major review into all intelligence collection programs.” And yet she’s been claiming that oversight has been more than enough for years?

5. The cynical viewpoint: Feinstein knows the USA Freedom Act is coming out Tuesday, and that it has tremendous political momentum. Sooner or later she was going to have to admit that NSA surveillance was going to be curbed. Did she just happen to choose this latest bit of news for a bit of political theater to join the “time to fix the NSA” crowd?

My only question for Senator Dianne Feinstein is why is she more upset about the spy game on our allies and around the world, something that everyone does, but unconcerned about the invasion or privacy and spying done here at home?