Two Unforgettable Recollections of Senator Dianne Feinstein

Fate played a cruel, unwanted hand in Diane Feinstein’s political rise:

On Nov. 27, 1978, at the end of her tether, Ms. Feinstein [then a member of the San Francisco city Board of Supervisors] told City Hall reporters that she intended to quit political life. Two hours later, shots exploded down the hall from her office. She ran toward the gunfire and, moments later, knelt beside a dying mayor. Mr. Moscone and Harvey Milk, the city’s first openly gay supervisor, who was shot in another office, had been killed by Dan White, a disgruntled former supervisor, who was quickly captured and eventually imprisoned.

The Board of Supervisors selected Feinstein to succeed the slain Moscone and from the mayoralty, Feinstein won a U. S. Senate seat in 1992.

A lot happened during her tenure, from wars to impeachments, to shutdowns and more. But for me, and seemingly for her, the most memorable episode played out during the Iraq war, at first in secret torture camps, and at Guantanamo, then in and and proceeding from Feinstein’s conscience:

In late 2007, The New York Times reported that the Central Intelligence Agency had secretly destroyed tapes of interrogations conducted in 2002 of two Al Qaeda operatives that the agency had in its custody.

The tapes reportedly showed agency operatives subjecting the terror suspects to severe interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding. Agency officials said the tapes had been destroyed because they might endanger undercover officers, their intelligence value had ended and they might expose the agency to legal jeopardy.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, of which Ms. Feinstein was a member, began an investigation. The report provided to the committee a little more than a year later described the extensive torture of Abu Zubaydah, whom the C.I.A. suspected was a high-ranking Al Qaeda member, and of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, another detainee.

By the time committee members received the report in early 2009, Ms. Feinstein, then 75, was the committee chairwoman, and she called for a full investigation of the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation program. The project — and the senator’s fight with the Obama administration to release what the committee’s staff had uncovered about the program’s brutality, inefficiency and needless secrecy to the public — consumed more than five years.

Drawing on millions of C.I.A. documents, the full, 6,700-page “torture report,” as it came to be known, remains classified. But the 500-page executive summary, issued in 2014 despite a relentless campaign by the C.I.A. to undermine it, delivered a sweeping indictment of the agency and its treatment of terrorism suspects in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks. So epic was the fight to inform Americans that a movie [The Report] was made about it in 2019, with Annette Bening playing Ms. Feinstein.

A postcard produced bu the Quaker Initiative to End Torture, calling attention to the movie about the CIA’s efforts, abbeted by president Obama, to suppress and destroy the report she and the committee had worked on for years.

Over the decades, Ms. Feinstein’s accomplishments ranged from the federal coordination of Amber Alerts, the national child abduction warning system, to the California Desert Protection Act, which preserved more than 7 million acres of desert. But she called the torture report the most important work of her career.

Addenda from Wikipedia:

Wikipedia Addendum #1:
Attempts to preserve copies of the Report

The CIA’s Inspector General’s office told Congress in May 2016 that it had accidentally deleted its only copy of the full report, both in electronic and hard disk forms. The acting Inspector General reportedly uploaded the report to the CIA’s internal computer network, followed protocol and destroyed the hard copy. Another staff member then apparently misinterpreted instructions from the Justice Department not to open the file and deleted it from the server.

Only a limited number of copies of the full report were made, and human rights workers are concerned that the CIA might succeed in destroying all copies of this report they found so embarrassing. On December 29, 2016, less than a month before the end of the Obama administration, District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ordered the preservation of the full classified report, in case it was needed during the prosecution or appeal of senior suspects during their Guantanamo Military Commissions. Also in December 2016, President Obama announced that he would include the report in his presidential archive. After 12 years [beginning 2028], a request could be made for the declassification process to start for the full report’s release.

In June 2017, Senator Richard Burr, then chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, ordered that Executive Branch agencies return their copies of the report to the committee. The copies preserved for the Guantanamo Bay cases and for Obama’s presidential archive would not be returned.

Wikipedia – Addendum #2:

Innocent people imprisoned by the CIA

At least 26 of the 119 prisoners (22%) held by the CIA were subsequently found by the CIA to have been improperly detained, many having also experienced torture. Under the Memorandum of Notification (MON) signed by President George W. Bush to establish the CIA detention program, only persons who “pose a continuing, serious threat of violence or death to U.S. persons and interests or planning terrorist activities” were eligible for detention. The MON also did not reference interrogation. Two innocent people were jailed and tortured based solely on allegations from another prisoner who fabricated information after having been tortured himself. Two former intelligence sources were jailed and tortured by accident. One mentally challenged man was held by the CIA in order to persuade family members to provide information. Among the 26 individuals who the CIA acknowledged had been improperly detained, only three were released after less than one month in CIA custody, while most were confined for several months.[1] There is only one example in CIA records of the Agency holding personnel accountable for wrongfully detaining individuals who they themselves determined did not fit MON criteria.

[NOTE: Wikipedia includes an excellent, detailed and footnoted account of the Senate CIA Report saga.]


R.I.P, Senator Feinstein, and thanks for your dogged witness on this unbelievably evil episode of American history.

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