Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a longtime defender of the National Security Agency, unveiled plans Thursday for legislation designed to rein in some aspects of the NSA’s controversial domestic surveillance programs.
At a rare open hearing of the intelligence panel, Feinstein said her legislation would limit the NSA’s access to the so-called metadata it collects on Americans’ cell phone usage and would seek to codify the legal standard under which such data could be searched by NSA workers.
The legislation also would require the NSA to reveal more details about its use of the information it collects under two U.S. laws, the USA Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, including making annual reports to Congress on how many times NSA searches its database of cell phone information.
~ from NSA Defender Feinstein Bows to Growing Political Pressure by Ali Watkins ~
Wow. If even Diane Feinstein is offering reform legislation, it must mean that the tide is turning in the halls of Congress, right?
Not. So. Fast.
Staunch defenders don't turn into opponents overnight. The job of a staunch defender is to minimize the damage that reform legislation might entail. While other members of Congress have floated legislative proposals with teeth, Feinstein wants to short circuit such attempts by offering legislation with few or no teeth at all. She wants to create the facade of reform without actually bringing about much of any substantive change.
And there is a crucial political reason to do this. As the two sides debate more substantive legislation, she can offer her bill as a "compromise" between the two sides. And let's face it. When the public is clamoring for change, most politicians want to appear as if they are listening -- they want to be re-elected, ya know. Consequently, legislation that sounds like substantive change, but really isn't, is very popular in such situations.
Mark my words. Feinstein's legislation will be among the most water-downed and open-ended of the various bills submitted. If you want to see the NSA reformed, it is the one bill you should not support.