(From Intellectual Ammunition by James Harris, from the Liberator Online Volume 18, No. 15. Subscribe here!)
As new and ever more shocking revelations about the government’s massive surveillance programs continue to surface, President Obama and other defenders of the programs insist that Congress is aware of these programs, continually kept informed about them, and supervises them.
As President Obama said in June: “These programs are subject to congressional oversight and congressional reauthorization and congressional debate.”
But that’s just not true — according to some members of Congress themselves.
A new column by award-winning civil liberties journalist Glenn Greenwald quotes several congressmen who say they are not only not informed about these programs, the government repeatedly refuses to give them basic information they request.
“The revelations about the magnitude, the scope and scale of these surveillances, the metadata and the invasive actions [and the] surveillance of social media Web sites were indeed revelations to me.” — Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
“I took an oath to uphold the United States Constitution, and I intend to do so. … I can’t do my job when I can’t get even the most basic information about these programs … How can I responsibly vote on a program I know very little about? … How can I talk about NSA actions I can’t learn anything about except from press accounts?” — Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA).
“I, as a member of Congress, can’t get access to the court opinions. I have to beg for access, and I’m denied it if I make that request.” — Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI).
Greenwald’s column expands on this with examples, documents, and links to similar statements by other members of Congress.
Greenwald summarizes: “Denial of access for members of Congress to basic information about the NSA and the FISC appears to be common. … 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.”