Rep. Alan Grayson has been among the most outspoken
members of Congress about the NSA's surveillance efforts, and his latest is an op-ed in the Guardian, in which he notes that Congressional "oversight" is really Congressional "overlook,"
and that he learns much more about the NSA from the press than from the House intelligence briefings:
Despite being a member of Congress possessing security clearance, I've learned far more about government spying on me and my fellow citizens from reading media reports than I have from "intelligence" briefings. If the vote on the Amash-Conyers amendment is any indication, my colleagues feel the same way. In fact, one long-serving conservative Republican told me that he doesn't attend such briefings anymore, because, "they always lie".
Many of us worry that Congressional Intelligence Committees are more loyal to the "intelligence community" that they are tasked with policing, than to the Constitution. And the House Intelligence Committee isn't doing anything to assuage our concerns.
We've covered in detail how House Intelligence chair Mike Rogers had blocked
other Reps. from learning information about the spying program, refusing to answer questions or provide more access to certain Congressional Reps, as well as generally making sure that curious Reps can't find out
the answers to their questions. Grayson goes into more detail:
I've requested classified information, and further meetings with NSA officials. The House Intelligence Committee has refused to provide either. Supporters of the NSA's vast ubiquitous domestic spying operation assure the public that members of Congress can be briefed on these activities whenever they want. Senator Saxby Chambliss says all a member of Congress needs to do is ask for information, and he'll get it. Well I did ask, and the House Intelligence Committee said "no", repeatedly. And virtually every other member not on the Intelligence Committee gets the same treatment.
Recently, a member of the House Intelligence Committee was asked at a town hall meeting, by his constituents, why my requests for more information about these programs were being denied. This member argued that I don't have the necessary level of clearance to obtain access for classified information. That doesn't make any sense; every member is given the same level of clearance.
There is no legal justification for imparting secret knowledge about the NSA's domestic surveillance activities only to the 20 members of the House Intelligence Committee. Moreover, how can the remaining 415 of us do our job properly, when we're kept in the dark – or worse, misinformed?
This is even more important than just a few concerned Congressional Reps. Just recently, we wrote about the FISA Court's defense
of its latest renewal on the bulk metadata collection of phone records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. A very key piece of that decision had to do with the FISA Court's belief that Congress was well-informed about the programs when it voted to renew Section 215 -- thus, arguing that Congress approves of such things. Grayson's comments (along with those of many other House Representatives -- not to mention the 207 Reps who voted for the Amash Amendment against such bulk collection) suggest that the FISA Court is simply wrong on this, but doesn't seem to care enough to find out the truth.