In a real and important sense, picking one, single person of the year is hopelessly unfair and simplistic. This year’s honoree could not have succeeded without a skilled, diligent and relentless staff, who worked for years under very difficult conditions, as difficult as the CIA could make them.
But we need heroes, too. We need the folks who can direct and commit those resources, set the example and give the staff the support they need, even if leads to place that the folks may find uncomfortable.
All of which describes Senator Diane Feinstein (D, California). It was, to a considerable extent, her pressure that resulted in the publication of any report at all on CIA torture of illegal detainees. As Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), fighting pressure from the CIA, illegal hacking of the Committee’s computer network by the CIA, and the resistance of the Obama Administration, over the course of more than five years she pressed to have the Report made public. In the end, the damning report, redacted and censored as it is, presents a truly horrifying summary of crimes committed in the name of Americans. Most impressively of all, given the unrelenting opposition, the CIA is damned by its own documents.
What’s even more amazing is the Senator Feinstein has generally been a strong supporter of the intelligence services, supporting the National Security Administration’s illegal surveillance and condemning Edward Snowden, WC’s 2013 Person of the year, as a traitor. But as flawed, limited and incomplete as the Senate Torture Report may be, it’s clear that we’d have nothing at all if the CIA, the Republican minority and the Obama Administration had had their way.
Politics, especially Congressional politics, is the art of compromise, of achieving the possible, even if it maybe less than ideal. Senator Feinstein accomplished all that was possible, under extremely difficult conditions.
Which is why she is WC’s 2014 Person of the Year.
Runnderup: Doctors Without Borders