August 14, 2013

In the last week or so it’s come out that Rep. Mike Rogers, the head of the House Intelligence Committee has actively blocked requests from members of Congress to review details of the NSA’s surveillance program — showing that the claim that everyone in Congress was informed about these programs isn’t just a lie but a duplicitous one. And then it got worse. Rep. Justin Amash pointed out that Rogers’ committee actually withheld key information from all incoming Representatives in the class of 2010, who had to vote on the Patriot Act’s reauthorization, which renewed the program to collect data on all Americans in bulk.

Amash highlighted a document showing that the White House had sent a letter to Rogers, telling him that he should make the document available to all members of Congress, and then noted that he had not actually done so in 2011 (though he had in 2009). Marcy Wheeler has pointed out that if you actually closely read the DOJ’s paper that was released on Friday defending this program, you’d see that the White House was well aware that Rogers never made the document available to Congress.

Of course, you have to read the document very, very, very carefully to spot that. The paper first talks about the document that was provided to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees in 2009, and then notes that both committees made those documents available to all of their colleagues:

In December 2009, DOJ worked with the Intelligence Community to provide a classified briefing paper to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees that could be made available to all Members of Congress regarding the telephony metadata collection program. A letter accompanying the briefing paper sent to the House Intelligence Committee specifically stated that “it is important that all Members of Congress have access to information about this program” and that “making this document available to all members of Congress is an effective way to inform the legislative debate about reauthorization of Section 215.” See Letter from Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich to the Honorable Silvestre Reyes, Chairman, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (Dec. 14, 2009). Both Intelligence Committees made this document available to all Members of Congress prior to the February 2010 reauthorization of Section 215. See Letter from Sen. Diane Feinstein and Sen. Christopher S. Bond to Colleagues (Feb. 23, 2010); Letter from Rep. Silvestre Reyes to Colleagues (Feb. 24, 2010)

But, when it came to the similar document in 2011, the White House report only notes that the Senate Intelligence Committee made the document available, and never says anything about the House. And of course, the letter that Amash highlighted points out that the White House was clearly urging Rogers to make it available as well — and he did not do that. An updated version of the briefing paper, also recently released in redacted form to the public, was provided to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees again in February 2011 in connection with the reauthorization that occurred later that year. See Letter from Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich to the Honorable Dianne Feinstein and the Honorable Saxby Chambliss, Chairman and Vice Chairman, Senate Select Committee on

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