When You've Lost Dianne Feinstein, You've Lost Middle America

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 28 2013 6:39 PM

When You've Lost Dianne Feinstein, You've Lost Middle America

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein isn't defending the NSA's data collection anymore.

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

When the Edward Snowden story broke, right out of the gate, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein called the leaker a "traitor." And yet this is how she's describing the news that the NSA also tracked information about friendly foreign leaders:

Unlike NSA’s collection of phone records under a court order, it is clear to me that certain surveillance activities have been in effect for more than a decade and that the Senate Intelligence Committee was not satisfactorily informed. Therefore our oversight needs to be strengthened and increased. With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of U.S. allies — including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany — let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed.

Spencer Ackerman brings the science about what Feinstein was saying just a month ago.

It is my opinion that the surveillance activities conducted under FISA, and other programs operated by the National Security Agency, are lawful, they are effective, and they are conducted under careful oversight within the NSA, by the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and by the FISA Court and the Congress.
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How much of an evolution is this? The impact, like Ackerman says, will probably be a confidence boost to NSA reformers in the House. And they're rolling out their bill tomorrow. The intent, as I read it, is to send a message to foreign allies but make no criticism of domestic spying.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.