Citizen Action Monitor

Embarrassing revelation – Senate Intelligence Cmte. has always had authority to expose NSA wrongdoing

NSA critic Sen. Ron Wyden says he “didn’t know” of provision that allows public disclosure of information that would serve the public interest. He “didn’t know”? Isn’t it his job to know?

No 828 Posted by fw, August 13, 2013

“Despite claims by members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that they are barred from publicly exposing dragnet surveillance practices at the National Security Agency, a closer look at Senate rules shows that the group actually has it in their power to actively push for greater transparency. They have just opted not to use that power….The committee’s failure to make use of the provision even once, critics say, underscores a problem with congressional oversight: Congress has proved unwilling to openly question the intelligence agencies’ claims that something must remain secret….It remains to be seen if, upon knowledge of this rule, NSA critics on the committee such as Wyden and Udall will take action to push harder for declassification.” Jacob Chamberlain, writer, Common Dreams

Yet another major blow to citizens’ confidence in and trust of US lawmakers. Glenn Greenwald’s repeated criticism of Wyden appears to have been vindicated.

Senate Committee Had Authority to Expose NSA All Along, Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer, Common Dreams, August 13, 2013

Provision allows committee to push for more declassified documents, they just never employ it

Despite claims by members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that they are barred from publicly exposing dragnet surveillance practices at the National Security Agency, a closer look at Senate rules shows that the group actually has it in their power to actively push for greater transparency. They have just opted not to use that power.

According to a new report by McClatchy, “buried in the pages” of the founding document of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Senate Resolution 400, is a provision that allows the committee to “seek the declassification of information that he or she thinks is of public interest, even if the executive branch labels the material top secret,” by way of a majority committee vote.

Congress has proved unwilling to openly question the intelligence agencies’ claims that something must remain secret.

As McClatchy reports, according to the rule, if a majority vote is reached and the executive branch still refuses to allow the declassification of materials for public knowledge, the issue can be taken to the Senate floor for another vote.

“The select committee may, subject to the provisions of this section, disclose publicly any information in the possession of such committee after a determination by such committee that the public interest would be served by such disclosure,” Section 8 of the document reads.

In all the years since the committee was formed in 1976, Section 8 has never been enacted. As McClatchy notes:

The committee’s failure to make use of the provision even once, critics say, underscores a problem with congressional oversight: Congress has proved unwilling to openly question the intelligence agencies’ claims that something must remain secret.

This finding runs counter to claims by committee members such as NSA critic Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who along with fellow committee member Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., has continuously offered “veiled concerns” that the U.S. public would be “stunned and angry” if only the committee could reveal the NSA’s activities to them.

Wyden and Udall have praised whistleblower Edward Snowden and have publicly pushed for NSA transparency but have repeatedly said that he they are barred from revealing details of classified NSA practices as committee members. Subsequently, Wyden told McClatchy that he didn’t know the provision existed, as did fellow Intelligence Committee member Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).

It remains to be seen if, upon knowledge of this rule, NSA critics on the committee such as Wyden and Udall will take action to push harder for declassification.

Other Senate Intelligence Committee members have openly supported the NSA’s unchecked surveillance such as committee chairperson Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog, Citizen Action Monitor, may contain copyrighted material that may not have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I claim no ownership of such materials. Such material, published without profit, is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues. It is published in accordance with the provisions of the 2004 Supreme Court of Canada ruling and its six principle criteria for evaluating fair dealing.

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This entry was posted on August 13, 2013 by in evidence based counterpower, political action, rights and freedoms and tagged , .
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