Senate Compiling Database of US Spy Programs
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who has served 25 years for the state of California and is best known for her crusade against guns and violence, particularly violence in video games, has given a rather candid interview to the Associated Press. She explained that the Senate Intelligence Committee has been so overwhelmed by the information leaked by Edward Snowden that they have had difficulty making sense of it all.
We’re trying right now to look at every intelligence program. There are hundreds of programs we have found … sprinkled all over. Many people in the departments don’t even know (they) are going on.
The sheer number of programs created under Executive Order 12333, which can (allegedly) legally authorize overseas surveillance programs, has led to the necessity of a compilation of sorts. The committee is characteristically secretive about how it conducts business, but intelligence officials have said that no single document will ever exist which outlines the whole of American surveillance activities.
Feinstein No Longer Committee Chair
North Carolina Senator Richard Burr took over as the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which oversees intelligence activities of the government and often holds secret meetings, in January when his party took control of the Senate. Feinstein told the Associated Press that she hadn’t been sure at that time if the review of the leaks by Edward Snowden and more would continue under his watch.
Feinstein initially called for a full review of the errant NSA and CIA when a widely covered story circulated about the government spying on ally German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone. To the untrained eye, spying on allies is an oxymoron, but Snowden’s leaks along with other revelations of the past decade have proven that it is a regular occurrence.
Intelligence Committee members are prohibited from discussing the depths of their knowledge even with their staffers, which they might otherwise have aide them in researching the issues at hand. Legislation can sometimes run into the thousands of pages, and it wouldn’t be humanly possible for a single person to review it all, after all.
Burr Refuses to Comment
When the Associated Press attempted to get comment from present Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr, they hit a brick wall. A representative of his office said:
[The Senate Intelligence Committee] is constantly and continuously engaged in oversight of intelligence community activities. It is the very core of what the committee does, day in and day out, and it is a key component of the work done by the committee’s professional staff.
More than likely, Burr does not want to appear weak or to compromise on matters that can be construed as directly related to national security. Republican voters have overwhelmingly supported initiatives such as the War on Terror, historically. On that note, so has Feinstein, who also told the AP that she had known about the PRISM program and many of its components prior to the Snowden leaks. Her concern and the concern of her committee were the many programs, across the government, authorized directly by the White House under E. O. 12333. That order, first signed by George W. Bush in 2003, reads, in part:
Timely, accurate, and insightful information about the activities, capabilities, plans, and intentions of foreign powers, organizations, and persons, and their agents, is essential to the national security of the United States. All reasonable and lawful means must be used to ensure that the United States will receive the best intelligence possible. […]
Special emphasis shall be given to the production of timely, accurate, and insightful reports, responsive to decision makers in the executive branch, that draw on all appropriate sources of information, including open source information, meet rigorous analytic standards, consider diverse analytic viewpoints, and accurately represent appropriate alternative views. […]
[The Director of National Intelligence] shall ensure that appropriate departments and agencies have access to intelligence and receive the support needed to perform independent analysis […]
Feinstein said the committee expected to have its new atlas of American intelligence programs compiled and completed by September. September 11th, 2015 will mark the 14th year since the the World Trade Center attacks kicked into motion the spying programs that Edward Snowden revealed in a controversial gambit to shed light on domestic surveillance programs by Western powers not previously famous for them.