Russ Feingold on Strategic Intelligence Deficit


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Senator Russ Feingold‘s blunt and captivating discussion at the New America Foundation yesterday about America’s strategic intelligence deficit can be watched here.
While his talk focused mostly about the structure of the national intelligence system and its capacity, during questions, he goes after the FISA compromise and calls it a farce that hides the real issue — which is that Americans who communicate electronically abroad are going to be spied on more invasively than ever before in the nation’s history. The Q&A is quickfire, substantive, and should be listened to.
The entire presentation was important and provocative. A pdf of his prepared comments can be accessed here. (his text can also be read on the web below this related article by Nick Juliano at Raw Story).
For those who prefer, this is an mp3 of the meeting.
— Steve Clemons


16 comments on “Russ Feingold on Strategic Intelligence Deficit

  1. WM says:

    Doesn’t anyone consider it amazing when the person who may have the most common sense in the entire Senate, considers it reasonable to state that he clearly informed the legitimate government of a sovereign nation, in this case Pakistan, the US will not accept that government establishing a peace agreement with groups within its own internationally recognized borders?
    I fail to see the difference between that view and Georgie boy giving himself permission to invade Iraq.
    Where in our Constitution does it give us permission to tell another country how to function????
    Why is it that intelligent Americans believe a single person who has decided to make his career at the public trough has an ounce of integrity?
    Warren Metzler


  2. pauline says:

    A big hurrah to Feingold for arguing this in the Senate today —
    “In view of this history, it is inconceivable that any telephone companies that allegedly cooperated with the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program did not know what their obligations were. And it is just as implausible that those companies believed they were entitled to simply assume the lawfulness of a government request for assistance. This whole effort to obtain retroactive immunity is based on an assumption that doesn’t hold water.
    That brings me to another issue, Mr. President. I’ve been discussing why retroactive immunity is unnecessary and unjustified, but it goes beyond that. Granting companies that allegedly cooperated with an illegal program this new form of automatic, retroactive immunity undermines the law that has been on the books for decades – a law that was designed to prevent exactly the type of actions that allegedly occurred here.
    Remember, telephone companies already have absolute immunity if they complied with the applicable law. And they have an affirmative defense if they believed in good faith that they were complying with that law. So the retroactive immunity provision we’re debating here is necessary only if we want to extend immunity to companies that did not comply with the applicable law and did not even have a good faith belief that they were complying with it. So much for the rule of law.”
    imo, Senator Feingold should be (and could be) our country’s best VP candidate. I wonder if Barry Obama is even considering such a man of vision, strength, understanding and honesty. How rare it is to clearly know who’s upholding his oath of office.


  3. Kathleen says:

    Yeah… the filibuster is ON!!! Feingold is not too far left… not if ethics is a requirement of holding office. If defending our Constitution is too far lest, we’ve lost our course.


  4. Linda says:

    Oops I meant purgatory though it was pugnacious too.


  5. Linda says:

    Thanks for the above. It won’t do any good to bother with my two GA Senators; however, I will e-mail someone I know on Barbara Boxer’s foreign policy staff who knows I’m keeping her as my Senator until we elect better ones here.
    Welcome back from the Obama seal thread, i.e., blog pugatory.


  6. PissedOffAmerican says:

    In the past 24 hours TrueMajority members like you have sent over 26,000 emails and made hundreds of calls to Senators Dodd, Feingold and Obama urging them to stop the FISA legislation which gives immunity to phone companies guilty of spying on Americans.
    Your calls and emails worked! We just got word that Senators Dodd and Feingold will step up as progressive leaders and filibuster this legislation. Here’s part of the joint statement they just released:
    “We will oppose efforts to end debate on this bill as long as it provides retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies.”1
    This filibuster may be the last chance to stop immunity from becoming law and Senators Dodd and Feingold are going to need all the help they can get in preventing their opponents from cutting off debate on this issue. That’s why we need you to call your Senators right now and ask them to support the Dodd/Feingold filibuster of telecom immunity.
    Tell your Senators to support the filibuster:
    Earlier this week everyone thought this compromise was unstoppable. Now, thanks to your efforts, we have two allies in the United States Senate. Please make the call today and make clear that letting George Bush and his friends in the telecom industry off the hook for spying on Americans is unacceptable!
    Thanks for taking action,
    Ilya Sheyman
    Online Organizer


  7. EA says:

    There exists a leadership/populace dislocation of massive proportions. The symbols (like Obama’s eagle icon) are the scraps that little citizens like those who participated in the piranha-feeding-frenzy in “blog purgatory” are left to fight over. Matters of substance and core platforms in which these are discussed are so far removed from the average voter as to make the gap between official and voter one of grand canyon proportions.
    Official public statements. Press releases. Press conferences. State addresses. Etc. Etc. All vapors emanating from the stinking heaps we call seats of government.
    Focus groups. Press secretaries. Speech writers. Think tanks. The “media”. All the colonic tubes through which the vapors are processed and channeled.
    The hearts and minds of the ruling corpus that eat the real meal and produce and aim the flatus are unreachable to the average citizen.
    Perhaps it just is.
    But every once in awhile a bit of fresh air sweeps away the foulness. Go Russ!


  8. erichwwk says:

    Agree w/ Carroll and Linda that Feingold’s speech is not action, but at least a voice of conscience, to give us some hope that all in DC is not evil. Remain skeptical (but dream on)that
    an Obama election will mean anything other than put another face on an elitists culture that will continue to give us the shaft as they take the gold when the mine gets divided. But as long as there are voices of conscience that get it right, there is at least hope, no matter how meager, that the light at the end of the distant tunnel is not totally extinguished, no matter how dimly it shines.
    Obama’s health care vision is not even up to Clinton’s.
    Benefits continue to get privatized to the few, while the costs get socialized to the many.
    So politicians spin us into believing we have a health care and social security entitlement problem, rather than a military expenditure problem. Rather than a single payer health system that delivers health care to the many, we have a subsidized insurance system whose only benefit is to deliver corporate welfare benefits to the few.
    But I do some some marginal steps in the direction of reducing military welfare, and recognizing that efficiency in spending and long run consequences matters.
    Since impeachment is off the table, only a war crimes tribunal or a major economic and military collapse (the Milton Friedman/ Naomi Klein SHOCK) will actually be able to reverse US direction.
    and yes, Carroll, the “Urban Moving System” type outrages are just the tip of the corrupt iceberg, the deeper one digs, the more it smells, the more one sees folks scurrying to make off with as much silverware as possible, before the ship goes down.
    The nuclear weapons scam has fleeced us out of at least $7 trillion dollars.


  9. Carroll says:

    O.K. I read it and I can support it…mostly.
    And DITTO to Linda…
    Posted by Linda Jun 24, 1:28PM – Link
    Feingold was very clear that he and Hagel are going to do what they can in the Senate but are almost sure to fail and that these issues will be in the hands of the next President and next Congress when Hagel won’t be in the Senate any more. So the best we can do is Obama as President and hopefully Hagel as the Republican in the Cabinet, and Feingold as the conscience of the Senate.
    All members of Congress know about egregious things–like Urban Moving or current efforts to outscource interrogation of terrorist suspects to private contractors. But nothing significant is going to fix them in this administration or this Congress. That’s upsetting and frustrating, but it is reality.


  10. Linda says:

    Feingold was very clear that he and Hagel are going to do what they can in the Senate but are almost sure to fail and that these issues will be in the hands of the next President and next Congress when Hagel won’t be in the Senate any more. So the best we can do is Obama as President and hopefully Hagel as the Republican in the Cabinet, and Feingold as the conscience of the Senate.
    All members of Congress know about egregious things–like Urban Moving or current efforts to outscource interrogation of terrorist suspects to private contractors. But nothing significant is going to fix them in this administration or this Congress. That’s upsetting and frustrating, but it is reality.


  11. Carroll says:

    To the gang..
    Excuse me if I am once burned twice shy. I exaggrate of course for effect. I agree basicaly with Feingold but who is going to back up the reforms?…the same congress and people that gave us the redacted here, redacted there, here a redact, there a redact, pig in lipstick, insult to anyone’s intelligence famous 911 Investigation Report?
    Let Russ get on “intelligence” and make them come clean about “covert activities”, then I will be more encouraged.
    Such as:
    Why the SBA funded the famous dancing Israelis Urban Moving company who were picked up by the FBI after reported for doing high fives as the WTC burned.
    If we were funding them to spy on the 911 hijackers they didn’t do a very good job did they?
    I would love to know exactly who in DC pushed thur SBA funding for Urban Moving.
    (On June 21, 2002, ABC News reported that five Israelis were arrested on Sept 11, 2001 after being caught filming the burning of the World Trade Center from the roof of the “Urban Moving Systems” building, shouting cries of joy. The police found them driving in the company van. [Bergen Record, 9/12/01] Investigators said that there were maps of the city with certain places highlighted, found in the van. The FBI confirmed that two of the five men were Mossad agents and that all five were on a Mossad assignment. [Forward, 3/15/02] They were held on immigration violations, questioned excessively and then released after 71 days in custody. [ABC News, 6/21/02] The owner of Urban Moving System, fled the United States to Israel on Sept 14, 2001. The FBI later told ABC News that the company “may have been providing cover for an Israeli intelligence operation.” [Forward, 3/15/02; New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety, 12/13/01; ABC News, 6/21/01])
    As you can see based on the government data that wasn’t released until just recently, on August 28, 2007, Urban Moving Systems, whom the FBI suspected was an Israeli espionage front company tied to the September 11 terrorist attacks, was awarded federal funding in the amount of $498,750 and non-federal funding in the amount of $166,250 for a total of $665,000 and the payout date was June 22, 2001. So in other words, our government, whether knowingly or unknowingly funded an Israeli intelligence gathering operation tied to an FBI investigation, with American taxpayer’s dollars.
    Please click on the link to see the original source. is a project of OMB Watch, a Washington based, non-profit citizen’s watchdog group that is intended to promote government accountability and citizen participation.
    But wait, it gets even cuter. Urban Moving Systems was also a moving scam operation as well. In December of 2001, the State of New Jersey obtained a court order giving inspectors from Consumer Affairs access to the facility allowing all citizens who had goods stored at Urban Moving Systems’ Weehawken warehouse access to retrieve their belongings.
    “Dominick Suter, owner of the company Urban Moving Systems, flees the country to Israel. The FBI later tells ABC News, “Urban Moving may have been providing cover for an Israeli intelligence operation.” Suter has been tied to the five Israeli agents caught filming the WTC attack. The FBI had questioned Suter around September 12, removing boxes of documents and a dozen computer hard drives. However, when the FBI returns a few days later, he is gone.” [source: ABC News 6/21/2002]
    It gets even more ludicrous because Dominick Suter is now back in the US and living in Flordia since 2005 according to a lawsuit filed in New Jersey in behalf of customers of Urban Moving.
    Get on this Russ and I will start wearing a Russ for President t-shirt.


  12. Joe Klein's conscience says:

    You are probably right. Except there is a problem. No one brings up McCain’s divorce. Did anyone ever bring up Saint Ronnie’s? Why would Feingold be too far left? Is standing up to for the Constitution only a leftist value? Did you know that at one time, before the site disappeared(and they prevented the way back machine from cataloging it), the Unity ’08 site had a poll? Do you want to guess who were the two top vote getters in that poll as to who they should endorse(or encourage to run for President)? Obama was number one, and Feingold was number two. That is pretty interesting for a premise based on a “Unity” ticket.


  13. erichwwk says:

    Do listen to, or read Feingold’s address. I found it rather good.
    “I could go along with FISA if they promised to wiretap every single politican and current and former government official that represents a “foreign” country.”
    Actually, THAT is the major problem with FISA. What evidence do you have that the findings would be used in a way to promote a citizen, rather than an incumbent enhancing, agenda?
    Laura writes (in the post you cite):
    “Ridge’s registration was spurred by a DOJ inquiry after press accounts surfaced noting Ridge’s connection to the country. …”
    Sen. Feingold said:
    “The major strategic gap is a deficit in the strength and variety of resources we must bring to bear on the asymmetric threats of today. An effective 21st century national security strategy must include improved resources to collect covert and public information, enhance multilateral diplomacy and prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons. Our strategy must also encourage participatory, transparent and fair government around the world, and promote accountability and the rule of law.”
    Unfortunately, while he questions the value of covert information, he did not fully address the costs of the covert activities of NSA and FISA, covered in raw story and at, that essentially repeal the fourth amendment, and authorize permanent “Watergate” type plumbers beholden primarily to the executive branch, immune from prosecution, with surveillance NOT required to be related to terrorist activities. Just the sort of law that was primary in enabling the unitary executive of the Third Reich in Germany, to keep dissident politicians and activists in check.


  14. Linda says:

    I’m reposting here what I said yesterday about this program since it only was two sentences and no one else commented to form a thread:
    Posted by Linda Jun 23, 1:22PM Steve,thanks for this excellent program though I only caught the last half hour. And thanks to Russ Feingold for so ably taking up Paul Wellstone’s mantle as the conscience of the Senate.
    JK’s Conscience: I could not agreee with you more as I said exactly the same thing to Steve in private e-mail exchange. Feingold said he wouldn’t run for President this year because he thought it would get into stuff about his more recent divorce. I assume he thinks the same for VP slot. Steve and I agreed that Feingold as Obama’s VP would be too far left and might be a losing ticket–and I kidded Steve that Hagel as Obama’s VP also would be a losing ticket. So for the remainder of this Senate, we at least have Feingold and Hagel trying to do the right things.
    Carroll, do listen to the entire program but pay special attention to the Q&As at the end to learn a whole lot about status of FISA/ telecom immunity in the Senate and likely outcome–not good as Feinstein and Hagel probably will not prevail. Also welcome back from the still on-going Obama seal thread that is a prime example of blog purgatory.


  15. Carroll says:

    I shouldn’t comment before watching this but the first thing that springs to my mind when DC starts talking about reforming intelligence is that they do nothing toward reforming themselves in that area.
    I could go along with FISA if they promised to wiretap every single politican and current and former government official that represents a “foreign” country. What US intelligence means to most of them is how many $$$ they can sell or minipulate it for. One way to clean this disgrace up is to require all foreign agents to actually be foreign..i.e…actual citizens of the country they represent,not US citizens…then things would be a lot “clearer” when politicans whore for an foreign interest, friendly or not.
    “Roll Call:
    Former Bush Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge busted by the Justice Department for failing to register for two years for lobbying for Albania, at $40k a month:
    For almost two years former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge failed to register a nearly half-million-dollar lobbying contract that he had with the government of Albania.
    The Foreign Agents Registration Act requires agents to register with the DOJ within 10 days of signing a contract with a foreign government and before performing any duties for the client.
    Additionally, “foreign agents” must file biannual reports detailing any agreements, income received and expenditures on behalf of foreign countries or corporations owned by countries.
    Ridge’s registration was spurred by a DOJ inquiry after press accounts surfaced noting Ridge’s connection to the country. …
    Ridge is in good company. One becomes aware of a lot of unregistered foreign lobbying in Washington, although not always as blatantly in violation as this. …. So, curious if Ridge knows something about the strange DOD-US embassy-Albanian government-AEY-mothballed $300 million Chinese ammo weapons deal, now under investigation by the Feds and Congress?
    From War&Piece
    Posted by Laura at 06:55 AM
    June 23, 2008


  16. Joe Klein's conscience says:

    Why isn’t this man the next President of the U.S.? Is it because he’s now twice divorced and Jewish? I hope Obama is seriously considering picking Feingold as his VP. We need a strong kick ass, take no prisoners Democrat in the top job. I really hope Russ runs in 2016. While he might think he can effect change in the Senate, there is only place he can truly change things and that is in the White House.


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