SEARCH

Entries in Sen. Dianne Feinstein (2)

Sunday
Jun092013

McCain, Feinstein and Obama Chief of Staff on Surprise Trip to Gitmo

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images(HAVANA) -- Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., traveled to the federal detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Sunday with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.

The trip came amid a mass hunger strike of more than one hundred prisoners at the most recognizable and controversial holding facility in the war on terrorism. President Obama had promised to close Guantanamo when he was running for president in 2008, but progress has long since stalled.

Last month the president publicly declared his continued commitment to closing the gates of the detention center for good.

It is notable that on this trip there is the rare occurrence of a high-level administration official joining the congressional delegation, as is the presence of top congressional leaders from both parties, both of whom hold leadership positions on committees that are instrumental to garnering legislative support on the issue.

Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has spent years lobbying to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.  In late April she called on the Obama administration to transfer the 86 Guantanamo detainees that were cleared for transfer more than three years ago.

And while McCain, the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has been an outspoken critic of several of Obama’s overseas policies, he has also bucked many in his party as a stringent supporter of closing the detention center.

On Tuesday, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to keep the prison open, split on party lines.

In a statement Friday, the National Security Council’s Caitlin Hayden said that McDonough, Feinstein and McCain traveled to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay “to review the situation there and discuss the steps that we can take with the Congress to meet the President’s goal of closing the facility.”

McCain’s trip to Cuba comes less than two weeks after a trip to another controversial hot spot in American foreign policy: The senator became the highest ranking U.S. official to visit Syria since their bloody civil war began.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jun092013

Intelligence Committee Leaders Defend NSA Surveillance

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence committees defended the National Security Agency’s phone and internet surveillance programs revealed last week, saying that the programs are “within the law” and have been critical in thwarting potential terrorist attacks.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said on This Week Sunday that the NSA phone surveillance program revealed in reports last week is limited in scope to viewing phone records, not listening to private conversations, while reiterating that court orders are required for further information.

“The program is essentially walled off within the NSA. There are limited numbers of people who have access to it,” Feinstein said on This Week. “The only thing taken, as has been correctly expressed, is not content of a conversation, but the information that is generally on your telephone bill, which has been held not to be private personal property by the Supreme Court. If there is strong suspicion that a terrorist outside of the country is trying to reach someone on the inside of the country, those numbers then can be obtained. If you want to collect content on the American, then a court order is issued.”

“The National Security Agency does not listen to Americans’ phone calls and it is not reading Americans’ e-mails. None of these programs allow that,” added Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

Both Feinstein and Rogers said that the phone and internet surveillance programs has been instrumental in stopping terrorist attacks, citing the 2009 terror plot by Najibullah Zazi, the Colorado resident who was arrested in Sept. 2009 after plotting to bomb the New York subway system. Feinstein said the program also helped to track the case of David Headley, a Pakistani-American who traveled to Mumbai to scope the Taj Mahal Hotel for an attack.

“I can tell you, in the Zazi case in New York, it’s exactly the program that was used,” Rogers said, later adding, “I think the Zazi case is so important, because that’s one you can specifically show that this was the key piece that allowed us to stop a bombing in the New York subway system.”

Feinstein said the shadow of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks still loom in her mind, and that strong intelligence from the type of surveillance conducted by the NSA is needed to prevent future attacks.

“I flew over World Trade Center going to Senator [Frank] Lautenberg’s funeral, and in the distance was the Statue of Liberty. And I thought of those bodies jumping out of that building, hitting the canopy,” Feinstein said. “Part of our obligation is keeping Americans safe. Human intelligence isn’t going to do it, because you can’t – it’s a different culture. It is a fanaticism that isn’t going to come forward.”

Feinstein said she would be open to public hearings on the surveillance programs, and said that the Senate Intelligence Committee has made information on the programs available to all senators. But she noted the difficulty of being fully public without disclosing classified information.

“The instances where this has produced good – has disrupted plots, prevented terrorist attacks – is all classified, that’s what’s so hard about this,” Feinstein said. “So that we can’t actually go in there and, other than the two that have been released, give the public an actual idea of people that have been saved, attacks that have been prevented, that kind of thing.”

“If you tell our adversaries and enemies in the counterterrorism fight exactly how we conduct business, they are not going to do business the same ever again,” Rogers added. “It makes it more difficult.”

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who has raised warnings about the domestic surveillance methods in recent years, said he hopes the released information will spark debate over the NSA’s methods, and will lead to re-opening the Patriot Act to limit the NSA’s abilities.

“I think it’s an opportunity now to have a discussion about the limits of surveillance, how we create transparency, and above all, how we protect Americans’ privacy,” Udall said this morning on This Week. “My main concern is Americans don’t know the extent to which they are being surveilled… I think we ought to reopen the Patriot Act and put some limits on the amount of data that the National Security Administration is collecting.”

Udall said he did not believe the right balance is being struck currently between privacy and security.

“We do need to remember, we’re in a war against terrorists, and terrorism remains a real threat, but I also think we have to cue to the Bill of Rights, and the Fourth Amendment, which prevents unlawful searches and seizures, ought to be important to us,” Udall said. “It ought to remain sacred, and there’s got to be a balance here. That is what I’m aiming for.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio