The late senator Dianne Feinstein, who passed away at the age of 90, leaves behind a complicated legacy that encompasses both staunch support and fierce opposition. While she was revered by the CIA and the defense and intelligence community, her most notable battle with the agency revealed a side of her that surprised many. In 2009, as the chair of the Senate intelligence committee, Feinstein launched an investigation into the CIA’s post-9/11 torture of detainees. Despite facing significant pushback from the agency, she persevered and published a damning report in 2014, exposing the extent of the torture and the agency’s attempts to mislead Congress and the White House. The report also concluded that the torture had been counterproductive in obtaining valuable intelligence.
Feinstein’s fight with the CIA stood in stark contrast to her previous and subsequent career as a Senate hawk. Her support for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as her defense of spy agencies in controversies such as illegal mass surveillance, often put her at odds with the Democratic left. This disillusionment grew in the latter part of her career, and in 2024, she announced that she would not seek reelection.
While Feinstein’s career was marked by political controversies, she had several achievements she could look back on with pride. As a trailblazer for women in politics, she shattered glass ceilings and paved the way for future generations. Her calm leadership in San Francisco after the tragic killings of her predecessor and the city’s first openly gay elected official demonstrated her ability to navigate difficult times.
Perhaps her greatest source of pride was the torture report, which she considered her most significant achievement. The report shed light on the disturbing practices carried out by the CIA and sparked bipartisan efforts to reinforce the ban on torture. Feinstein worked alongside Republican Senator John McCain in advancing this crucial amendment.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: How did Dianne Feinstein’s investigation into the CIA’s torture unfold?
A: In 2009, as the chair of the Senate intelligence committee, Feinstein launched an investigation into the CIA’s post-9/11 torture of detainees. Despite facing resistance from the agency, she published a comprehensive report in 2014, which exposed the extent of the torture and the agency’s attempts to mislead Congress.
Q: What were the findings of the torture report?
A: The torture report revealed that the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques was widespread and brutal. It also highlighted the agency’s repeated attempts to deceive Congress and the White House. Additionally, the report concluded that the use of torture had not been effective in obtaining valuable intelligence.
Q: How did Feinstein’s role as a Senate hawk contrast with her investigation into the CIA?
A: Prior to her investigation, Feinstein had a reputation as a Senate hawk, voting in favor of wars and defending spy agencies in controversies. Her battle with the CIA over torture was unexpected and clashed with her prior positions, leading to growing disillusionment among fellow Democrats.
Q: What other notable achievements did Dianne Feinstein have?
A: Feinstein’s accomplishments include her success in getting gun control legislation through the Senate in 1994 and her role in reinforcing the ban on torture through bipartisan efforts alongside Senator John McCain.
Q: Why did Dianne Feinstein decide not to seek reelection in 2024?
A: In February of that year, facing declining physical and mental health, Feinstein announced that she would not seek reelection. Her decision came amid growing criticism and disillusionment with her political positions.