Dianne Feinstein’s claim that the CIA spied on Intelligence Committee computers, made in a careful but impassioned 40-minute floor speech, has rattled the city around her. The responses to leak and spying stories since 2010 have been iterative—the WikiLeaks revelations produced no legislation, while the Snowen revelations have started a churn of bills but no sure vote-winner. Feinstein’s story has changed the discussion.
Well, it hasn’t changed everything. Talking to reporters after Senate lunches, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz folded the Feinstein allegation into a narrative of Obama administration abuses and Democratic acquiescence.
“If it is correct that the CIA breached the security of Senate computers, that is a very serious allegation,” said Cruz. “I would note, it is consistent with a pattern of the Obama administration, of disregarding the constitutional liberties of the citizenry and disrespecting the constitutional role of the United States Congress. And I would say that protecting the institutional authority of the U.S. Congress is not helped, when during the State of the Union, President Obama says, ‘If Congress won’t act, I will,’ and virtually every Democrat in Congress stands and cheers.”
Cruz went on to pine for “the lions of the Senate, the Robert Byrds, the Ted Kennedys,” and ask why so few Democrats criticized their administration. But not far away, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden was reading carefully from yellow note cards, on which he was starting to write a full statement about the Feinstein accusations. Wyden’s often in this position—he can only reveal so much of what he knows without blasting out classified information. All he could say, really, was that he’d tried to get the CIA on the record about this before.
“I asked Mr. Brennan, director of the CIA, whether the computer fraud law applied to the CIA. He had no answer for me.”