Intelligence Committee has repeatedly failed to share key information; “oversight” justification for spy program legality is now laughable
Aug 12, 2013
Rep. Justin Amash, the Congressman who attempted to defund the NSA recently in the wake of the domestic spying revelations has indicated that he believes the House Intelligence Committee withheld information it had about the programs from selected representatives.
In a post on his Facebook page yesterday, Amash revealed a recently declassified letter from the Department of Justice addressed to Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger, the Chairman and the ranking Minority Member of the Intelligence Committee.
The document is a cover letter with which were attached documents relating to the bulk collection of data that was authorized by Section 215 of the Patriot Act and Section 402 of FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act). Often referred to as the “pen/trap,” Section 402 allows the government to install a pen register or trap-and-trace device to monitor an individual’s communications.
The cover letter from the DoJ, dated Feb. 2, 2011 states:
“We believe that making this document available to all Members of Congress, as we did with a similar document in 2009, is an effective way to inform the legislative debate about the reauthorization of Section 215.”
The problem is that, as Amash points out, Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger failed to share the documents with other members of Congress:
“Less than two weeks ago, the Obama administration released previously classified documents regarding NSA’s bulk collection programs and indicated that two of these documents had been made available to all Members of Congress prior to the vote on reauthorization of the Patriot Act.
I can now confirm that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence did NOT, in fact, make the 2011 document available to Representatives in Congress, meaning that the large class of Representatives elected in 2010 did not receive either of the now declassified documents detailing these programs.”
Given that Congress is supposed to have oversight on the NSA’s data grabs, and the activity has been justified as legal BECAUSE of that, this is clearly a big issue. Representatives cannot effectively have oversight over something if information pertaining to it is being kept secret from them.
When the scandal broke in June, via Edward Snowden’s leaks, President Obama declared “When it comes to telephone calls, every member of Congress has been briefed on this program.”
The director of national intelligence, James Clapper also stated that “We provided detailed briefings and papers on this to explain the law, to explain the process it was governing,”
However, we now know that these statements are false. Not Every member of Congress had been provided all the information on the NSA’s activity.
In addition, Glenn Greenwald recently noted that it is completely erroneous to claim that all members of Congress can easily access information in relation to the NSA’s programs.
Greenwald highlights how two members of Congress were simply ignored by the House Intelligence Committee when they asked for details about the NSA surveillance program so they could decide how to vote on the Amash defunding bill.
Mike Rogers’ eventual response to Rep. Alan Grayson’s repeated and expedited request, four weeks later, was that his request had simply been denied by a Committee “voice vote”. The details of that “voice vote” remain classified. Dutch Ruppersberger also told Grayson that “he was unaware of any committee action on this matter.”
Grayson has also been denied any form of meeting with anyone from the NSA.
According to Reuters, other members of Congress have highlighted how “briefings” on the NSA’s surveillance are a joke, and are “like playing the game ’20 Questions,’ where answers come only if a questioner knows exactly what to ask.”
Of course, members of Congress have also been overtly LIED TO about the NSA by intelligence leaders.
It is clear that as pertains to the NSA, representatives are being blocked from trying to do their jobs by their higher ups in Congress. Thus, the entire “oversight” legality argument for domestic surveillance is simply laughable.
Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.