This is my blog posting for today 3.15.14.
In June of 2013 a young intelligence agency subcontractor named Eric Snowden criticized the major U.S. intelligence agencies for spying on the rest of us and for dishonestly pretending that they were not doing such things. Unlike previous critics he was not almost universally dismissed as a paranoid crank. Others employees of these institutions had been fired, humiliated and even threatened with prosecution for suggesting that any of these agencies were gathering data on ordinary Americans’ private lives. Snowden did not suggest such corruption; he proved it. Several journalists received thousands of pages of documents which provided overwhelming evidence that government spy agencies have been collecting and storing information about every phone call, Email and internet use by every American. This JOURNAL OF PUBLIC LAW promptly dubbed Snowden an American hero and plunged into the ongoing debate about uses and abuses of the spying capabilities of the CIA, NSA, FBI and other such police agencies. As the JOURNAL noted then, there were some, including Vice President Dick Cheney who were just as prompt in denouncing Snowden’s disclosures as information the rest of us should not have and to condemn him for unpatriotically telling Americans that heir government was spying on them. Senator Diane Feinstein, the chair of the Senate committee entrusted to stand watchdog over federal intelligence operations, led congressional critics of the Snowden disclosures. She asked the world to accept her assertions that her committee and its House of Representatives counterpart were vigilantly monitoring the agencies which were monitoring the rest of us. The thrust of her argument was that these intelligence agencies had not and would not abuse their power to investigate any of the millions of us who lacked her committee’s authority over them. Abuses would not happen because these agencies would be held in check by their respect for the authority of these committees. So you can imagine the mixed emotions that want through the authors of the JOURNAL when on March 11, 2014 we found the following paragraph on the front page of our small town newspaper: “The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee [i.e., Senator Diane Feinstein] accused the CIA Tuesday of criminal activity in improperly searching a computer network set up for lawmakers investigating allegations that the agency used torture in terror investigations during the Bush administration.” If the Senator is to be believed the CIA first provided access to committee staffers interested in certain documents concerning the use of torture to obtain “intelligence”, then the CIA removed the same documents when it became apparent that the committee might actually use the provided information to inform the American people and the world of the truth concerning torture conducted for alleged “intelligence” purposes. If she is being truthful, and we have no reason to disbelieve her, then the power of her committee to prevent or expose corruption is so limited that the very agency she is charged with watching is doing to her what it was doing to the rest of us–abusing its power to ignore the law and our constitutional right to know what our government is doing. All of this confirms what the JOURNAL was saying back last June. The CIA and NSA and FBI are all operating outside effective oversight by the American people, and that fact raises serious concerns about the quality and future of American democracy. Thank you again for raising these issues Mr. Snowden.