Feinstein raises troubling questions

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It sounds like something straight out of a Jason Bourne movie, but it’s playing out all too real in Washington.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., long an advocate for allowing U.S. spy agencies to collect and use intelligence with a certain degree of secrecy, now has accused the Central Intelligence Agency of spying on the very committee that is supposed to oversee its activities.

More than a simple case of “spy vs. spy,” this is “spy vs. spy boss.”

Feinstein was outraged enough to air her complaints this week on the floor of the full Senate. She accuses the CIA of hacking into computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee staff to see a 6,300-page prelimiary report that Feinstein says outlines interrogation methods used on terrorist suspects. Feinstein has said the CIA’s questioning tactics are “far different and far more harsh” than anything the agency has disclosed before now.

The CIA contends the committee’s report is fraught with errors. But Americans have grown wary and weary of the methods used by intelligence-gathering organizations in the name of national security – particularly when those methods involve the collection of phone numbers, email activities and other personal data from everyday Americans.

Feinstein’s extraordinary speech grabbed the attention of a lot of people inside and outside the Washington Beltway. We can only hope that President Barack Obama listened, as well.

American citizens depend on elected members of Congress to oversee U.S. spy tactics. If Feinstein isn’t happy, then there’s little reason for any of the rest of us to be.