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 Intelligence (Feb. 2, 2011); Letter from Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich to the Honorable Mike Rogers and the Honorable C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Chairman and Ranking Minority Member, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (Feb. 2, 2011). The Senate Intelligence Committee made this updated paper available to all Senators later that month. See Letter from Sen. Diane Feinstein and Sen. Saxby Chambliss to Colleagues (Feb. 8, 2011).
In other words: in 2009, this information was made available to everyone in Congress. In 2011, Rogers chose not to make it available
to House members, meaning that (in particular) the 65 new members of Congress who voted for the reauthorization
that year had no idea
about this program, completely contrary to the later claims of Rogers and the White House that every member of Congress was fully aware of this program. (Updated to clarify that the 65 members were new, not briefed on this and voted for reauthorization).
Given all of this, the calls are getting louder and louder
both inside and outside of Congress to get Mike Rogers to explain why he actively withheld critical information on NSA surveillance from Members of Congress who were tasked with reviewing and voting on the continuation of the program. And, it's now becoming quite obvious that Mike Rogers is not representing the interests of the American public, but rather his friends and former colleagues within the intelligence community:
"The congressional committees charged with oversight of the intelligence community have long been captive to, and protective of, the intelligence agencies," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight.
"Many of the congressional staff, in fact, come from those agencies. This latest revelation demonstrates the harm caused by that conflict of interest. When the congressional oversight committee is more loyal to the agency it oversees than to the legislative chamber its members were elected to serve in, the public's interest is seriously compromised."
We've talked about regulatory capture for years, but this is an extreme form, and when it reaches the point that the head of the Committee charged with oversight appears to be proactively seeking to block critical information from other members of Congress, and the White House looks the other way (while claiming something entirely different in public) it should be obvious that there is no oversight at all. There is, instead, a government that is helping the intelligence community at the expense of the American public.