How Mike Rogers Buries NSA-Related Documents, While Pretending He Made Them Available

from the 'oversight'-in-Congress-apparently-limited-to-the-agency's-biggest-f dept

Representative Mike Rogers heads up the House Intelligence Committee and he, along with Dutch Ruppersberger, have taken a squarely antagonistic stance against any other members of Congress who wish to do perform the oversight duties they’re tasked with. This attitude has resulted in a wholly uninformed Congress which relies on the Intelligence Committee to disseminate information on surveillance programs.

Rogers’ stance has been unapologetically pro-NSA and pro-surveillance. At no point has he acted as if he represents anything more than the interests of the surveillance state.

Rogers has blocked requests for info from other Congress members (in advance of the voting for Justin Amash’s NSA-defunding amendment) and withheld key documents from incoming Congress members. As Amash has pointed out, documents the Committee shared in February of 2010 were not shared with incoming Congress members in 2011.

A statement released by the spokesperson for the House Intelligence Committee disputes this:

“The House Intelligence Committee makes it a top priority to inform Members about the intelligence issues on which Members must vote. This process is always conducted consistent with the Committee’s legal obligation to carefully protect the sensitive intelligence sources and methods that our intelligence agencies use to keep the American people safe. Prior to voting on the PATRIOT Act reauthorization and the FISA Amendments Act reauthorization, Chairman Rogers hosted classified briefings to which all Members were invited to have their questions about these authorities answered.

“It is unfortunate that some of the Members now attacking the Committee chose not to avail themselves of the opportunity back when these programs were not discussed so prominently in the news media.”

But this statement directly contradicts the DOJ white paper, which mentions nothing at all about Rogers providing this information to other Congress members. Prior to that, Rep. Silvestre Reyes handled the 2010 pre-vote briefings and he made those documents available in a very accommodating way.

In advance of the anticipated House consideration of a one-year extension of the three provisions described above, the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence have provided a classified document to the congressional intelligence committees on important collection programs made possible by these expiring authorities. They have asked for the Committee’s assistance in making that document available to interested members of Congress.

I have agreed to accommodate this request, and Chairman Conyers and I will make Judiciary and Intelligence Committee staff available to meet with any member who has questions. The Attorney General and DNI will also make Dept. of Justice and Intelligence Community personnel available if needed.

If you are interested in reviewing this classified document, please contact the Committee’s scheduler, Stephanie Leaman, at x57690, to set up an appointment in the Committee offices…

Contrast Reyes’ approach with Rogers’ tactics. Justin Amash details how a document (released in August) meant to be viewed by all members of Congress was buried by Rogers using methods that would allow him to claim it was “made available,” but still minimize the number of Congress members who would actually see it.

An important national-security document the libertarian Michigan Republican and some of his colleagues on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence had been trying to see for some time was made available to all members on less than 24 hours’ notice by the Intelligence Committee chair, with a viewing scheduled for when they were supposed to be voting, and on the very day Congress was set to begin its five-week summer recess. And the email went out through the “e-Dear Colleague” system, where it was buried.

Amash explains the “e-Dear Colleague” system and how it’s the last place anyone’s going to look for important correspondence.

This is a system that, it’s almost like a spam folder, frankly. Not everyone in Congress is signed up to it. And basically it’s a system where you send letters to your colleagues — will you cosponsor my bill, will you sign my letter, that kind of thing. Normally if you’re getting information about an upcoming briefing or an upcoming document that’s going to be available to members of Congress, you would get an email. An email, a normal email would come to you, to all members of Congress saying, “Hey there’s a document that’s going to be available, come stop by.” But no, we got it through the “Dear Colleague” system.

Rogers routed the “invitation” into Congress’ spam folder in order to limit the number of members who would actually see the email. Then he went further, setting up the least convenient time for viewing.

And the only reasons we noticed is because one of my staffers is silly enough to have this spam folder and look through it and she helped find it and she alerted me, “Hey we’ve got this document that’s going to be available tomorrow, and it’s going to be available between 9 a.m. and noon.” And it’s available between 9 a.m. and noon on the day when members of Congress are leaving to go back to their districts.

If this sounds familiar, you’ll recall that back in June, the Senate Intelligence Committee used the same tactic, scheduling a briefing with James Clapper at 2:30 PM on a Thursday afternoon, two hours after the last vote and heading into Father’s Day weekend. There are no details on how Senators were notified, but the fact that only 47 of the 100 Senators attended shows that scheduling something for a Thursday afternoon is the easiest way to ensure underattendance.

The House Intelligence Committee’s invitation was even more intentionally poorly timed than the Senate’s June briefing. The invitation itself didn’t even arrive until 2:31 PM on Thursday, a time when most Congress members would be boarding planes to head back to their home states. The viewing was set up for Friday morning, at which point the Capitol would be a ghost town.

Dear Colleague:

In response to Members’ questions during briefings on the NSA programs, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) is pleased to make available to Members a classified letter from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Specifically, the classified document will be available to Members-only for review with a HPSCI staff member from 9:00 am to noon, tomorrow, August 2nd. If you are interested in reading the letter, please have your staff contact [aide’s name] at [her phone extension] or [her email] to schedule a time to do so.


Mike Rogers

Amash went to the underadvertised document viewing and was unsurprised to find very few attendees.

The only people who showed up at that briefing were the people I talked to. Nobody else knew that that was going on. Not a single person outside of the people I talked to knew that was going on. And we had to sign a disclosure … an anti-disclosure agreement saying we wouldn’t talk to any of our colleagues about what we saw.

This is Rogers “making” documents “available.” If someone really wants to disseminate information to their colleagues, they’ll make an effort to find a time that works for a majority of Congress members, like Reyes did back in 2010, with his staff and others accommodating others rather than setting arbitrary timeframes. If they don’t, and Rogers clearly doesn’t, they’ll dump a notice in the spam folder and hold a one-time viewing once most of Congress has already left for the weekend.

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Comments on “How Mike Rogers Buries NSA-Related Documents, While Pretending He Made Them Available”

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out_of_the_blue says:

I'll bet Rogers gets money from Google.

Either “campaign contributions” or stock tips or promises of later consulting / lobbying for him and / or staff, or as criminals in DC are now brazen they may just deposit money in Swiss / offshore accounts. Are dozens of ways to transfer money, and the only ones able to monitor it are criminals too. Here’s the only evidence needed: “Rogers’ stance has been unapologetically pro-NSA and pro-surveillance.”

BUT he’s not the only elected criminal! Are at least 536 more. (Counting the alleged prez and VP too.) Don’t trust any of them, all just for show: some just have to play roles as champions of rights or it’d be too obvious.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I'll bet Rogers gets money from Google.

Nope. But why let facts get in the way of a good conspiracy?

Also, um, Google has been fairly anti-NSA, so not sure why you’d think they’re funding Rogers. Its the defense contractors who are the big ones here.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I really wish I was still that optimistic, but Feinstein(may or may not be spelled correctly), who’s every word seems to be an assault on the sanity of those around her, has apparently been re-elected numerous times.

Also even if he never spent a day in public office after his current term is over, I would be insanely surprised if he doesn’t already have a nice, cushy job/retirement lined up, given how much cover he’s been providing the NSA and similar groups.

Loki says:

You know, aside from a handful of people like Ron Wyden and Ron Paul, who have consistently complained about these state of affairs and actually tried to do something about it, I’m not letting most of Congress off the hook here.

Because quite frankly, aside from mostly hand waving and lip service, I see very little little action being taken by the majority of Congress to do anything about this. As far as I am seeing from where I’m sitting, the majority of Congress seems quite content, despite a bit of sabre rattling here and there, to remain intentionally ignorant of what is going on so they claim plausible deniability.

If they REALLY wanted to know, if they were REALLY serving the people who elected them and trying to honestly earn their almost $200,000 for what is essentially a part time job, they’d be back in their offices demanding some answers.

I sure the hell would.

techflaws (profile) says:

Mandatory Douglas Adams reference

?But Mr. Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months.?
?Oh yes, well, as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn?t exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them, had you? I mean, like actually telling anybody or anything.?
?But the plans were on display ??
?On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.?
?That?s the display department.?
?With a flashlight.?
?Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.?
?So had the stairs.?
?But look, you found the notice, didn?t you??
?Yes,? said Arthur, ?yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ?Beware of the Leopard.??

Wolfy says:

Thanks for the article. I just forwarded a good chunk of it to Roger’s local newspaper. I doubt they’re aware of what he is up to. They are starving like every other local newspaper in this country.

BTW, you should get a sub. to your local paper. They are often the only ones doing any reporting at the state level. They provide a democracy a vital service. Info on what your elected types are up to.

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