Members Of Congress Denied Access To Basic Information About NSA

Documents provided by two House members demonstrate how they are blocked from exercising any oversight over domestic surveillance – Published on The Guardian, by Glenn Greenwald, August 4, 2013.

Members of Congress have been repeatedly thwarted when attempting to learn basic information about the National Security Agency (NSA) and the secret FISA court which authorizes its activities, documents provided by two House members demonstrate.

From the beginning of the NSA controversy, the agency’s defenders have insisted that Congress is aware of the disclosed programs and exercises robust supervision over them. “These programs are subject to congressional oversight and congressional reauthorization and congressional debate,” President Obama said the day after the first story on NSA bulk collection of phone records was published in this space. “And if there are members of Congress who feel differently, then they should speak up” … //

… Finally, all members of Congress – not just those on the Intelligence Committees – are responsible for making choices about the NSA and for protecting the privacy rights and other Constitutional guarantees of Americans. “I did not take an oath to defer to the Intelligence Committee,” Rep. Griffith told me. “My oath is to make informed decisions, and I can’t do my job when I can’t get even the most basic information about these programs.”

In early July, Grayson had staffers distribute to House members several slides published by the Guardian about NSA programs as part of Grayson’s efforts to trigger debate in Congress. But, according to one staff member, Grayson’s office was quickly told by the House Intelligence Committee that those slides were still classified, despite having been published and discussed in the media, and directed Grayson to cease distribution or discussion of those materials in the House, warning that he could face sanctions if he continued.

It has been widely noted that the supremely rubber-stamping FISA court constitutes NSA “oversight” in name only, and that the Intelligence Committees are captured by the agency and constrained to act even if they were inclined to. Whatever else is true, members of Congress in general clearly know next to nothing about the NSA and the FISA court beyond what they read in the media, and those who try to rectify that are being actively blocked from finding out.
(full text with hyper-links).

Links:

Meet the contractors analyzing your private data: Private companies are getting rich probing your personal information for the government. Call it Digital Blackwater, on SALON.com, by TIM SHORROCK, June 10, 2013;

More revelations on German spy agency sharing phone, email data with NSA, on Russia Today RT, August 7, 2013;

Germany scraps old surveillance pact with US, Britain over NSA leaks, on Russia Today RT, August 2, 2013.

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