Widgets Magazine

Senator Dianne Feinstein ’55 talks surveillance and security

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein ’55 spoke on May 28 at CEMEX Auditorium about American surveillance laws and national security. The talk was sponsored by six Stanford organizations, including the Hoover Institution, Freeman Spogli Institute and Stanford in Government.


U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein ’55 speaks on threats to national security during a talk on May 28 (KEVIN HSU/The Stanford Daily).

In the talk, moderated by consulting professor Philip Taubman, Feinstein discussed her defense of the country’s national security laws, as well as her criticism of former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden. In addition to her position as Senator, Feinstein was the mayor of San Francisco during the 1970s and 1980s, and currently serves as the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Feinstein will be flying to Washington D.C. over the weekend, where the Senate will discuss extending the NSA’s metadata collection program. Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which outlines the metadata collection program, is set to expire at midnight on Sunday.

“It is often depicted as a surveillance program. In my view it is not. In my view, surveillance is observation over a period of time up close and personal. That’s not what this is,” said Feinstein with regards to the NSA’s perceived surveillance programs. Rather, Feinstein insists the programs only query data when there is a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” surrounding a phone call from a known terrorist.

Though Feinstein feels a program such as that outlined in Section 215 is necessary, she would rather telecom companies hold the data until a warrant for any data is obtained, and then hand the information over to the NSA. Current reform efforts of the program are taking the approach under consideration.

Feinstein also took time to discuss her perception of current terrorist threats, including ISIS, recounting the crimes ISIS has carried out in the recent past.

“I don’t think during my lifetime I’ve ever seen the degree to which evil exists out in the world today,” she said. “They are in my view the personification of evil.”

When asked about Snowden, Feinstein did not hesitate to share her criticism of his actions.

“I think it’s a very serious crime,” said Feinstein, discussing the release of sensitive military data. “I don’t respect him for what he did. I believe he should come back to the United States and take his punishment, candidly.”

In addition to her discussion of recent NSA programs embroiled in controversy, Feinstein spoke about her involvement with the report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogation techniques following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Feinstein has pushed for the report to be made available to the public in its entirety.


Contact Sam Premutico at samprem ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Sam Premutico

Sam Premutico ’18 is a staff writer covering University and local news. A freshman from Brooklyn, New York, Sam has a wide range of academic interests, including biology and philosophy. When not in class or writing for The Daily, Sam enjoys solving crossword puzzles and playing for the Stanford Men’s Squash team. To contact Sam, email him at samprem ‘at’ stanford.edu.
  • Formerly of Calfornia

    Dear Mr. California-writer: Senator Dianne Feinstein isn’t the Chairman of the SSCI, she’s “Ranking Member” as Republicans control the Senate.

    And it’s Chairman (gender neutral), not Chairwoman. (i.e.: It’s not a luncheon committee, it’s the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence).

  • twitter brought me here (sorry, boilerplate don’t allow me to trim any particulars below):

    Dan Gillmor

    Security-statist Feinstein says it’s not surveillance to scoop up and store all of your comms for future reference.

  • mikeva

    I said the same thing after visiting Saudi Arabia and Qatar! We’ve tortured black people for more than hundred years. Why not torture our grandchildren with mass extinctions and climate change. The economy of finance will save us! Everytime these horrible leaders mention evil, I have to think of the decade after decade of stupid policy, interventions, and dead people for a worthless, archaic macro-economic system called the United States.

  • Jason Luthor

    Chairman is only a gender neutral phrase to men.

  • Marcus

    “I don’t think during my lifetime I’ve ever seen the degree to which evil exists out in the world today,” she said.

    Diane Feinstein was born in 1933. Given this statement, I guess some Holocaust Denial group could score a real coup by inviting her to speak….

  • Derwood Kirby

    To direct the cyber-security program, just get the same guy who covered up Oblama’s undergrad application records, college and law school grades, law license dissolution,
    and passports–they’ve never been found. Perhaps the government could print up a small pamphlet to let us know what few words and few thoughts we are allowed to have.