Rep. Mike Rogers Blocking Other Congressional Reps From Access To Info On NSA Surveillance
from the look-at-that dept
When the Ed Snowden leaks first hit the Guardian and the Washington Post, many officials claimed that there was full oversight from Congress of these programs and that everyone was aware of them. In fact, President Obama himself declared:
“When it comes to telephone calls, every member of Congress has been briefed on this program,” Obama said to reporters last Friday.
And other defenders insisted, at the very least, that anyone could get a full briefing — if they just asked for it:
The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, chimed in later: “We provided detailed briefings and papers on this to explain the law, to explain the process it was governing,” he said on NBC News last Saturday.
And then Monday on Fox News, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who’s on the House Intelligence Committee, told his colleagues to stop whining: “You know, these members of Congress who said they didn’t know about it — they could have gotten a briefing whenever they wanted to.”
Oh really? Even back then, many in Congress said that was hogwash, and that it was incredibly difficult to get the details of these programs out of those who knew about them. While there were these “briefings” that Clapper and King mention above, they’re anything but clear. As some noted, the “briefings” don’t really brief you on anything — unless you already know exactly what questions to ask:
“Sometimes these briefings are a game of 20 questions. If you don’t ask exactly the right question, you don’t get the answer,” said Harman.
Either way, Glenn Greenwald’s latest shows that the claims that any member of Congress can simply find out what’s going on is flat out false — so we can add that to the list of “lies” from those defending the NSA surveillance programs. Greenwald highlights how two Congressional Representatives — Morgan Griffith and Alan Grayson — shared with him their attempts to get access to certain details about the NSA surveillance program. Griffith sent over a bunch of requests to the House Intelligence Committee… and got back nothing, even as he asked that his request be expedited so he could vote knowledgeably on the Amash amendment. Instead… silence.
Even worse, however, is the completely obnoxious response that Grayson received from (you guessed it!) Rep. Mike Rogers, saying that his request had been denied:
On June 19, Grayson wrote to the House Intelligence Committee requesting several documents relating to media accounts about the NSA. Included among them were FISA court opinions directing the collection of telephone records for Americans, as well as documents relating to the PRISM program.
But just over four weeks later, the Chairman of the Committee, GOP Rep. Mike Rogers, wrote to Grayson informing him that his requests had been denied by a Committee “voice vote”.
Oh, and it gets worse. Grayson spoke to Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (basically the number two guy on the Intelligence Committee after Rogers) and was told that “he was unaware of any committee action on this matter.” A staff member for Grayson asked the Intelligence Committee for the details of the voice vote, including the member-by-member voting. The response?
Thanks for your inquiry. The full Committee attends Business Meetings. At our July 18, 2013 Business Meeting, there were seven Democrat Members and nine Republican Members in attendance. The transcript is classified.”
Say what? Here is a Congressional Representative — who we are told over and over again can have full access to this information — being told by the NSA’s staunchest defenders, Rep. Mike Rogers, that his request is denied “by a voice vote” and then told that the details of that vote are now classified? At some point, you have to recognize that Rogers and the House Intelligence Committee are out of control. I realize they’re trying to do damage control, but denying such direct requests from a Congressional Representative is really quite stunning.
And that’s not all. Looking through the email exchange, it notes that Grayson had spoken to NSA Deputy Director Chris Inglis to find out more about the program, and was requesting a follow up meeting. There are then a whole series of follow up emails with Grayson’s office repeatedly trying to schedule a meeting. Finally, they are told that someone from the House Intelligence Committee would be calling to “close the loop,” and there’s a note that “closing the loop” meant merely calling to tell Grayson that he could not have a follow up meeting with the NSA.
It’s no secret that Grayson has been one of the vocal critics of the surveillance program, but now the House Intelligence Committee, led by Mike Rogers, is looking to actively block him from doing his job, denying him access to the very documents, individuals and briefings that all the defenders of the program have said repeatedly are open to all Congressional reps. It really makes you wonder: what are they so afraid of?