Recently Barack Obama claimed that Congress knew about the lengths to which the National Security Agency was going in spying on American citizens. He also said they have oversight of the NSA spy programs, saying that they are “subject to congressional oversight and congressional reauthorization and congressional debate.” Several Congressmen were denied any access to the information while some on particular committees were. Obama then called on members of Congress that thought differently to “speak up.” They did. Several congressmen voiced their concern that they have not been given information on the programs, but have been explicitly denied access. Justin Amash told Fox News Sunday last week, “Without his (Edward Snowden) doing what he did, Members of Congress of wouldn’t have really known about it (the NSA spy programs).” On Sunday, Amash presented evidence to that effect, confirming that all members of Congress were not made aware of what was going on.
Amash posted to his Facebook page a letter dated February 2, 2011. This would have been just after new Congressmen had been sworn in following the 2010 elections.
“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,” Amash wrote. “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.”
The letter was sent from the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs to Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Mike Rogers and Ranking Member Dutch Ruppersberger.
“Please find enclosed an updated document that describes the bulk collection programs conducted under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act (the “business records” provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)) and Section 402 of FISA (the “pen/trap” provision),” the letter read. “The Department and the Intelligence Community jointly prepared the enclosed document that describes these two bulk collection programs, the authorities un which they operate, the restrictions imposed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the National Security Agency’s record of compliance, and the importance of these programs to the national security of the United States.”
Amash highlighted the next relevant portion:
“We believe that making this document available to all Members of Congress, as we did with a similar document in December 2009, is an effective way to inform the legislative debate about reauthorization of Section 215.”
“However, as you know, it is critical that Members understand the importance to national security of maintaining the secrecy of these programs, and that the HPSCI’s plan to make the document available to other Members is subject to the strict rules set forth below,” the letter added.
One commenter at Amash’s page did make a valid point, and that is that it sounds like the Executive Branch gave the information to the Select Committee and then they failed to make it available to the rest of the Congress.
This would lend credibility to what I pointed out the other day, and that is the leadership of the House; those who moves the “pieces” into place when it comes to committees, namely John Boehner and company.
However, the letter does state that access to the document was to be provided in a “secure location” for a “limited time period to be agreed upon, and consistent with the rules of the HPSCI regarding review of classified information and non-disclosure agreements.”
Amash also mocked the idea that Barack Obama was actually thinking of sitting down with Congress to discuss reforming the surveillance programs.
“President Obama’s claim that he was planning to sit down with Congress to reform these surveillance programs prior to the leaks is laughable,” he said. “And while I hope that he is now serious about surveillance reform, the President has given us no reason to believe that he intends to stop unconstitutional policies and practices, such as the suspicionless bulk collection of all Americans’ phone records or, according to reports, the sharing of “inadvertently” collected Internet data with the DEA and IRS.”
“Fortunately, Americans from across the political spectrum are demanding that the government respect the Fourth Amendment, and a broad, bipartisan congressional coalition will push ahead with real reforms with or without the President,” he added. “I speak regularly to House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte about these issues, and he has my trust and confidence. If Congress is serious about surveillance reform, the Judiciary Committee must take the lead.”
Last week, Amash told guest host Laura Ingraham on The O’Reilly Factor that Obama’s claim “we don’t have a domestic spying program” was “highly misleading.”
The violation of the Fourth Amendment is a serious issue. Sadly, many are unconcerned with it. I’m glad Congressman Amash is not one of them.
Tim Brown is the Editor of Freedom Outpost and a regular contributor to The D.C. Clothesline.