Security

Congress hasn’t gotten basic information on NSA activities

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Members of Congress have complained that they have been repeatedly rebuffed when trying to get the most basic information about the activities of the National Security Agency and the secret court that oversees its activities.

Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian newspaper in the UK reported that at least two members of Congress feel that they haven’t received adequate information about the NSA’s most basic activities.

Since the beginning of the NSA controversy over spying on Americans without warrants, the agency has said that Congress has been aware of the disclosed programs. Those activities are supervised by the secret FISA court, which authorizes activities in secret.

“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.”

But documents provided by two members of Congress, including those in Obama’s party, have denied knowing about them.  On MSNBC on Wednesday night, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct)  said, “The revelations about the magnitude, the scope and scale of these surveillances, the metadata and the invasive actions surveillance of social media Web sites were indeed revelations to me.”

On top of that, the Guardian said that two House members, Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Virginia) and Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida), provided the newspaper with numerous letters and emails documenting their persistent, and unsuccessful, efforts to learn about NSA programs and relevant FISA court rulings.

“If I can’t get basic information about these programs, then I’m not able to do my job”, Rep. Griffith told Greenwald. Griffith requested information six weeks ago from the House Intelligence Committee.

Grayson reported similar experiences, including getting request denials.