When the Snowden leaks about the NSA surveillance programs came out over two months ago, President Obama had this to say in reaction about the transparency and accountability of such programs under Congress:
“The programs are secret in the sense that they are classified. They are not secret, in that every member of Congress has been briefed,” he said during a speech in San Jose, Calif. “These are programs that have been authored by large bipartisan majorities repeatedly since 2006.”
“Your duly elected representatives have consistently been informed,” he said.
Yet, a new report out from Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian disputes that claim from the President. Glenn reports as such:
But it is not merely that members of Congress are unaware of the very existence of these programs, let alone their capabilities. Beyond that, members who seek out basic information – including about NSA programs they are required to vote on and FISA court (FISC) rulings on the legality of those programs – find that they are unable to obtain it.
Glenn specifically cites GOP Rep. Morgan Griffith of Virginia and Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson of Floria, as two members who made repeated requests to the requisite Intelligence Committee to ascertain information about the NSA programs and did not have their requests answered, much less acquire any relevant information that would assist in future votes about those very programs.
How can we expect accountability and transparency, much less a debate, as Obama seemingly welcomes, when our Congressmen and women don’t even know what these programs are or their capacity therein beyond what they learn from leakers like Edward Snowden? It’s mass madness.
And if for whatever reason, you don’t seem to trust the reporting of The Guardian and Glenn Greenwald, here’s an earlier report from NPR:
The White House says members of Congress could have asked to review classified reports. But here’s how that would work: First, you have to know what to ask for. Then, you walk into a secure room. You can’t bring your cellphone in. You can take notes, but you can’t keep them with you afterward. So you’re relying completely on memory by the time you walk out of that room.
Just to sum up here, then. This is how it works: First, you need to be on one of the important national security or intelligence committees. Then, you may or may not get briefed and the extent of what being “briefed” entails could vary to knowing the names of the programs to not really knowing anything. Secondly, if you’re not on those committees, then you simply need to ask those committees to give you the necessary information, but how can you ask, if you don’t know about the programs? Well, thanks to Edward Snowden, we do now, but as Glenn’s report shows, the committee’s aren’t responding to requests for information. So, then what?
Again, madness; it’s utter madness.