White House Knew That Mike Rogers Withheld Details Of NSA Surveillance From Others In Congress

from the it's-the-coverup-that-gets-you dept

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.

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Comments on “White House Knew That Mike Rogers Withheld Details Of NSA Surveillance From Others In Congress”

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24 Comments
out_of_the_blue says:

"you have to read the document very, very, very carefully"

But it’s a waste of time to pick through details! Just try to understand the nature of the beast you’re dealing with, such as that by Rogers so doing, other members of Congress have the old “plausible deniability”, when actually anyone at all informed just from “mainstream” accounts should have long known it from the several whistleblowers before Snowden.

They’re ALL thoroughly corrupt and in on the game secrets, Mike. At best, you have insufficient cynicism.

Anonymous Coward says:

from what i have been reading recently, it seems to me that Obama has about as much authority, as much clout as Pepsi. it seems that the USA is run by those at the top of the various security agencies who also do what the hell they like, including taking no notice of and actually completely ignoring who is supposed to be the head of the Nation. anything else that adds fuel to the fire that the USA is as near to being a Police State as it gets?

ss (profile) says:

I don’t believe that this country has done anything trustworthy for as long as I’ve been paying attention and then some. There’s a fuck job around every corner and it’s now pretty clear that most of that is rooted in a dirty congress.

You definitely can’t rebuild trust when the original version was nothing but a greenback foundation with a servant’s entrance and a revolving door for the lords.

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t think there’s any lack of cynicism on Mike’s part. I think he’s well aware of the complicity of nearly all who feed at the trough of our tax dollars. You see, when one stands up and decries Congress for being a bunch of scoundrels, etc., one isn’t giving any meaningful information or being at all insightful.

Each seemingly minute data point like the one in this article is a concrete thing, not another vague pronouncement of vague evildoings. In the court of public opinion the latter results in a mistrial. The former, when gathered together, can bring down institutions.

And that’s what is needed, right? The intelligence apparatus in its current form needs to be dismantled and made to be part of that government of, by and for the people we heard about in civics class. Otherwise I’m going to have to get US Government classes taught side by side with Creationism, as they’ll contain equal amounts of the truth

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You see, when one stands up and decries Congress for being a bunch of scoundrels, etc., one isn’t giving any meaningful information or being at all insightful.

A thousand times this.

Further, when you loudly make broad-brushed accusations — even if they’re absolutely true — you sound like a crank and will be ignored by the very people you’re trying to reach.

It’s much more effective to take advantage of the steady drip of specific wrongdoings by pointing them out individually. People will eventually get the gist.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Further, when you loudly make broad-brushed accusations — even if they’re absolutely true — you sound like a crank and will be ignored by the very people you’re trying to reach.

Yeah, pretty much where I was going with that, but typing a reply on my phone while the cursor keeps going places I don’t want… well, that derailed my train of thought. Thanks for taking it to its proper conclusion.

Seriously, a couple years ago anyone standing up and waving his arms about saying the NSA was reading everyone’s emails and tracking their phone calls would have been taken as seriously by the general publc as a 911 “truther” or chemtrail snorter, just another paranoid in the cacophonous chorus. But these sequential, verifiable revelations are the equivalent of a DoD-stamped shipping manifest of 55-gal drums filled hallucinogenic aerosols with a handwritten note stating “this lot is for the airspace over West Hollywood.”

Every time the Guardian drops another Snowdenbomb, and every time someone outs another bit of government Truthiness, we get further away from a smile and a wink. We’re well on our way to a determined grimace, methinks.

Anonymous Coward says:

An ice storm has hit hell! For once I’ve had to with hold the urge to hit the report button on ootb. Both on topic and makes sense.
—————

Again as demonstrated in this article, we can not trust any one supporting the spying at the magnitude it has reached. What little trust the government could have gotten from the public has been squandered.

There is little hope in my mind of the NSA nor congress critters ever regaining that trust until they realize that it can’t go on as it has. I’m not talking band aid fixes that just cover up for eyesight what’s wrong.

All the word twisting, lying, and misdirection has indeed had an effect. That is to totally destroy any belief in this government over what it is doing in this matter.

Anonymous Coward says:

There is one other little thing I would like to call attention to. In 1948 the US signed The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Article 12.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

https://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

So not only is the Constitution and Bill of Rights being ignored, so is a treaty.

Daemon_ZOGG (profile) says:

"..a government that is helping the intelligence community at the expense of the American public."

Although I still fly my state flag, it angers me that I can’t even look at the American flag anymore. When I do, all I see is corruption, deception, and more damn lies. In my eyes, The US government has lost its face value. Now it spits upon the constitution and walks on the backs of its citizens with an evermore sense of tyranny. The government’s motto has become “Do as I say, not as I do.” The American people have already lost control of the government. It is not their government anymore. :-{

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