29th September 2023 – (Washington) Dianne Feinstein, a prominent Democratic senator from California known for her advocacy of gun control measures and her role in exposing the CIA’s torture practices, has died at the age of 90, according to a reliable source familiar with the news. The announcement was first reported by the Punchbowl news outlet on Friday, 29th September.
Feinstein’s office has not yet issued a response to the news of her passing.
Feinstein was a trailblazer in Washington, notably becoming the first woman to lead the influential Senate Intelligence Committee. Throughout her nearly 31-year tenure in the Senate, she built a moderate-to-liberal record, occasionally drawing criticism from the left. Elected in 1992 after winning a special election, she went on to be reelected five times, including in 2018, becoming the longest-serving female senator in history.
Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand referred to Feinstein as a formidable force, stating, “She was one of the most powerful voices in the Senate, and she blazed a trail for generations of women who followed her into elected office. I was so grateful to have her as my role model, my mentor, and a dear friend.”
Feinstein’s political career was profoundly influenced by her stance on gun control. In 1978, she assumed the role of San Francisco’s mayor after the assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. Feinstein, who was then president of the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors, arrived at Milk’s office after the tragic event and discovered a bullet hole while searching for his pulse. This experience led her to author the federal ban on military-style assault weapons, which was in effect from 1994 until its expiration in 2004.
Expressing her frustration after a mass shooting in California in May 2021, Feinstein criticized the nation’s gun culture and the failure of Congress to enact new gun control laws to prevent the loss of innocent lives.
Feinstein spearheaded efforts for stricter gun laws, including a renewed assault-style weapons ban following the 2012 massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, where 20 children and six adults were killed. However, the legislation faced strong opposition from Republicans and gun rights advocates and ultimately failed in the Senate.
In her later years, Feinstein faced health issues, temporarily slowing down her career. She announced in February 2023 that she would not seek re-election the following year. From February to May of that year, she was unable to fulfil her congressional duties due to complications from shingles, encephalitis, and Ramsay Hunt Syndrome.
As chair of the Intelligence Committee, Feinstein confronted resistance from national security officials and Republican lawmakers in 2014 when her panel released a comprehensive report on the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation practices of foreign terrorism suspects following the 11th September, 2001, attacks by al-Qaeda. The report exposed the CIA’s use of “coercive interrogation techniques in some cases amounting to torture” on at least 119 detainees. Feinstein emphasized the importance of facing the truth and striving for a just society governed by law.
Feinstein’s passing marks the end of a remarkable political career. Born on 22nd June, 1933, in San Francisco, she graduated from Stanford University. Feinstein began her political journey in 1969 when she was elected to the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors, eventually becoming its president. After the tragic events that led to her mayoral appointment, she became San Francisco’s first woman mayor and served two full terms. In 1992, she successfully ran for the Senate seat previously held by Republican Pete Wilson, becoming California’s longest-serving senator and the first woman elected to the chamber.
Feinstein was previously married and divorced before marrying surgeon Bertram Feinstein. Following his death, she married Richard Blum, an investment banker, in 1980. Blum passed away in 2022, preceding Feinstein in death.