Dianne Feinstein: Whose Ox is Being Gored?

Recently, Senator Dianne Feinstein objected to CIA surveillance of Senate committee staffers who were looking through classifed documents relating to the agency’s previous interrogation and detention practices.  Feinstein, who has generally been supportive of NSA monitoring, has been criticized on the ground that she only objected to government surveillance when it affected her.

Feinstein has now opened herself up to more criticism of this sort.

In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” that aired on Sunday night, the California Democrat said a drone spied into the window of her home during a protest outside her house, and that privacy concerns for the technology were “major.”  Feinstein appeared as a pro-regulation voice in a Morley Safer segment on the legal questions surrounding the commercial drone industry.

“I’m in my home and there’s a demonstration out front, and I go to peek out the window and there’s a drone facing me,” she recalled.  Demonstrators from Code Pink who were protesting government surveillance at the time, said the device was merely a toy helicopter, but Feinstein used the instance to sound off about the importance of controlling the technology through government regulation.

I am sure there are other ways of viewing these events, but they do seem to be an example of a privileged person getting upset only when her privileges are affected.  The most hopeful consequence would be if her responses to these intrusions operate to protect not only her privileges but everyone’s.  Here’s hoping.

Mike Rappaport

Professor Rappaport is Darling Foundation Professor of Law at the University of San Diego, where he also serves as the Director of the Center for the Study of Constitutional Originalism. Professor Rappaport is the author of numerous law review articles in journals such as the Yale Law Journal, the Virginia Law Review, the Georgetown Law Review, and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. His book, Originalism and the Good Constitution, which is co-authored with John McGinnis, was published by the Harvard University Press in 2013.  Professor Rappaport is a graduate of the Yale Law School, where he received a JD and a DCL (Law and Political Theory).

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  1. Greg Weiner says

    Mike — I’m sympathetic to the double-standard argument, but I think the other way to look at it with respect to the CIA and the Intel Committee is that the privileges Feinstein’s demanding aren’t hers or her colleagues’ in their personal capacities, they attach to constitutional offices in ways that are legitimately necessary to preserve the separation of powers. (More detailed musings here: http://www.libertylawsite.org/2014/03/13/the-cia-invades-the-senate/.) But I do agree with you: One can hope the experience nonetheless sensitizes her to the abuses she has otherwise defended.

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