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.
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.
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.