Rep. Justin Amash: House Intelligence Committee Withheld NSA Documents From Incoming Congressmen

from the Mike-Rogers'-streak-of-'dick-moves'-continues-unabated dept

Defenders of the NSA's program always point to two things: it's all legal and it's all subject to oversight. Part of the "oversight" is the FISA "thumbs up" system that has approved every request for two years in a row. The other part of the "oversight" is Congress itself.

Unfortunately, members of Congress have been lied to directly about the extent of the collections occurring under Section 215 (and 702), so that's one strike against the "oversight." Now, it appears that members of Congress are being selectively provided with information about the programs.

Rep. Justin Amash, (attempted) NSA defunder, posted this to his Facebook wall last night. It's a recently declassified document addressed to Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger. This cover letter accompanied documents detailing the bulk collections authorized by Sections 215 and 402 (pen register/trap and trace). [Click through to enlarge.]

At the beginning of the second paragraph, the cover letter (dated Feb. 2, 2011) notes:
We believe that making this document available to all Members of Congress, as we did with a similar document in 2009, is an effective way to inform the legislative debate about the reauthorization of Section 215.
There's your "oversight" for you: the assistant attorney general calling for these documents to be shared with all Congress members in order to give them the oversight capabilities NSA spokesmen keep claiming is keeping the agency in check. Except, as Amash points out on his FB page, Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger never bothered sharing these documents.
Less than two weeks ago, the Obama administration released previously classified documents regarding ‪#‎NSA‬'s bulk collection programs and indicated that two of these documents had been made available to all Members of Congress prior to the vote on reauthorization of the Patriot Act. I can now confirm that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence did NOT, in fact, make the 2011 document available to Representatives in Congress, meaning that the large class of Representatives elected in 2010 did not receive either of the now declassified documents detailing these programs.
It appears the Committee was extremely selective (hence its name?) about who it would share these documents with. Incoming Congress members need not apply.

So, when Feinstein and others greeted the leaks with a shrug and a blase "We've known about this for years," there was probably some truth to those claims. Certain Representatives and Senators knew. Some even tried to warn the public. Still others had no idea, not until the details began appearing, not in security briefings, but at The Guardian and Washington Post.

Maybe the NSA really thought every representative was on the same page. Maybe it knew there were "gaps" in the oversight but didn't care. Considering its position as the most secretive of intelligence agencies, it probably figured the smaller the loop, the better.

According to this document, it was left in the hands of Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger to disperse the information to the other members of Congress. And it appears they chose not to.

"Oversight" like this, based on selective inclusion, is a joke -- something that affects all Americans is guided into the hands of a chosen few, most of whom wholeheartedly support the NSA's programs. Mike Rogers continues to mold the "oversight" into his own image, withholding these documents in 2011 and, more recently, denying crucial information on the FISA court and the PRISM program to representatives who wished to use it to get up to speed before the vote on Amash's NSA-directed amendment.

This isn't "oversight." This is Mike Rogers abusing his position to control the narrative and keep the NSA running smoothly, safely hidden away from those tasked with overseeing these surveillance programs. The NSA and its defenders can talk all they want about "oversight," but this is nothing more than Rogers carving out a fiefdom at the expense of the American public.

Filed Under: congress, house intelligence committee, justin amash, mike rogers, nsa, nsa surveillance, oversight

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Aug 2013 @ 1:39pm

    Re: Least Untruth

    They have a secret interpretation of what the word "all" means.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Show Now: Takedown
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.