“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” [Who will guard the guards themselves?]
– “Satires:” a collection of satirical poems by the Latin author Juvenal, written in the late 1st and early 2nd centuries AD
Just when you thought the news could not get weirder, California’s Senior Senator, and Democratic Chair of the Senate Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Diane Feinstein, gave us this week’s gift to our 24/7 Talking Heads Media. It seems that Feinstein’s committee has been investigating the CIA’s ‘detention and interrogation’ program, which commenced in 2002 under the GW Bush Administration.
Usually a staunch supporter of our CIA spies, Sen. Feinstein exploded on the Senate floor on Tuesday of this week, alleging that the CIA had hacked her staff’s computers – the staff of her Senate Committee on Intelligence, the committee whose job it is to oversee the operations of that always secretive, often newsworthy, but not-always-straight-shooting, gang over at CIA.
Not the North Korean Hacker’s Army – Not the Chinese Hacker’s Army – Not some kid in Palo Alto, working late in the family garage – Not some shadowy Eastern European hacker group – Not some wanna-be Edward Snowden, Whistleblower-type . . .. Wait a minute on that last one, maybe too soon to tell that . . .. Yes, Sen. Feinstein accuses her committee’s supervisee agency of turning the tables and hacking her committee staff’s own computers.
Now, why would CIA do that?!?
Well, there’s this 6,000-page secret report we’ve learned about. And, those mysteriously destroyed videotapes (last accounted for in 2005, before being destroyed) of the CIA’s, . . . ahem . . . advanced interrogation methods. And, what’s this? A lawyer, who just happens to be mentioned some 1600 times in that 6,000 page secret report, and, what a coincidence, who also just happened to have a connection with the GWB Whitehouse back when Veep Cheney was in full Dr. Strangelove mode, directing CIA renditions, and lots of other nasty business during the height of the Iraq War. . . . Wait, is this some cheesy spy novel? A B- movie script, perhaps?!?
We live in a cyber-connected 21stC world of zero privacy – zip, zero, nada. I always have to laugh when people realize, while enjoying Google’s gift of free “Gmail,” that the ads in the margin columns seem to change depending on the email topics which you are busily writing about. Try it – start writing an email on your Gmail account and talk about, oh, say, ‘cannibalism,’ for example, and low and behold, you begin to get advertisements on the margins for cookbooks, restaurants, and food preparation accessories. Supposedly, if you sat beside me and typed the same email while I typed mine, the ads would vary depending on what Google makes of all the data mined from our other correspondence.
We also know that the NSA routinely copies your emails and listens in on your cell phone conversations. When your daughter did that Semester abroad in Madrid while in college, since all your communications with her were with ‘foreigners,’ every word of your emails and texts with her – every word – has been poured over, studied and analyzed by our intelligence community. What did she mean when she said, ‘hangover’ – is that code for some terrorist’s secret instruction? Nope, she just had too much to drink while partying with friends one weekend, but so good to know that our tax dollars are paying for such intensive study of our every word uttered in cyberspace.
Too bad that, despite all the cyber-connectedness and massive hacking activity, it seems that our CIA is often the last to know. Take the Boston Marathon bomber, for example; Russian intelligence was all over that clueless guy, but our own CIA was not, despite adequate warnings. Putin’s invasion of Crimea? Seemingly, a total surprise to our CIA. 9/11, looking back over warnings given within the intelligence community, was not the absolute surprise we were told, nor should it have been. Over in Southeast Asia right now, they are still searching, at the last news interval, for that missing Boeing 777-200, Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which seemingly vanished from radar off the south coast of Vietnam in the South China Sea with 239 people were on board. How does a modern airliner, some 209 feet long and with a wing span of 199 feet, simply vanish in such a cyber-connected world?
Latest news on Feinstein vs CIA is that calls for the Justice Department to investigate a CIA leak among Feinstein’s committee staffers have now upped the ante, and we should expect to shortly see, at least calls for, dueling Justice Department criminal investigations of all involved. Ground zero for this one may be where CIA gave Sen. Feinstein’s committee staffers access via separate computers set up for Senate staff, and housed at a secure location in northern Virginia. But then, apparently, CIA proceeded to deny committee staff access to documents that the agency had previously provided. Also, it is alleged that CIA began to snoop into the committee’s own computers, and perhaps worse.
We are being given tantalizing hints of what might be involved – a partially disappeared, but then found again, document (or documents) from CIA files, which somehow appeared in the Committee’s files, and now CIA’s Director Brennan wants to know why. And, Sen Feinstein wants Director Brennan to tell her why CIA is hacking into the staff computers of the committee supposedly providing oversight for the CIA, thus completing the tortured circle of hacks, re-hacks, and counter-hacks.
Feinstein claimed she needed to “set the record straight” to counter media articles about the investigation. According to Feinstein, when her staff removed printouts of a CIA internal review, “the Panetta Review,” this was a perfectly legal act done according to security protocol, although Feinstein acknowledged an agreement with CIA not to remove anything without prior clearance.
The CIA’s alleged interference with her committee’s work, according to Feinstein, “may well have violated the separation-of-powers principles embodied in the US Constitution,” and further, accused the CIA of “intimidating” her staff. Feinstein’s statements were met by CIA Director Brennan’s denials that CIA was trying to stop Feinstein’s committee’s work, or that CIA had hacked into her committee’s computers.
This is a rapidly developing story with something for virtually everybody; don’t miss it!