Mythical creature sightings: Robust congressional oversight and Nessy in the Potomac

Like all schoolchildren in America, Congress is now on summer recess. Predictably, while unsupervised, they have taken to playground shoving and taunting in earnest. A troika of ardent NSA defenders took to the airwaves Sunday to claim that they were fully informed. Meanwhile a member of the small but growing wing of Congress with the reading comprehension skills to digest the Constitution took to social media to dispute them.

Thursday afternoon at 2:31 an email was sent to Congressional staffers through the House email system called “E-Dear Colleagues.” The system electronically mimics the old style of sending paper memos between lawmakers in what was called a “Dear Colleagues” letter. According to a staffer who was interviewed about the email, this system is high traffic and as a result is used by “less than half of Congressional staffers.” He went on to describe the email list as opt-in only by topic and “kind of spammy.” Most effective communication and appointments made between lawmakers happen through their staff schedulers.

The email sent late on a Thursday and seemingly passive-aggressively designed to never be actually read was from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It described a three-hour window between 9am and noon the next day during which Congresspeople, but not their staff members, could view a classified letter. Lawmakers were permitted to view the letter but not take notes. No paper or pens were permitted into the room. The actual subject of the letter was classified and congressional staffers interviewed by the Free Press were not aware of its contents.

At the same time the secret letter was being made available by DNI Alexander to the people who control his budget, Congress held hearing on the NSA's secret warrant-less wiretapping programs. Some, including the apologist troika of Saxby Chambliss, Peter King and Dutch Ruppersberger, defended the programs. Others were lured away from the hearings to Oval Office to watch President Obama smile and nod at their concerns. Few actually managed to read the letter graciously provided for during a limited, inconvenient time on short notice. Those that did read it are forbidden from discussing it with those Congresspeople who did not get the memo in time.

During the hearings, the State Department announced that Al-Qaida planned to attack American diplomatic targets somewhere in the Middle East. Saxby Chambliss immediately seized on this announcement as a way to point to the success and usefulness of the NSA's domestic spying on Americans. On NBC's "Meet the Press," he said "Chatter means conversation among terrorists about the planning that's going on — very reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11.” It is not clear who leaked raw intelligence to Chambliss or if he was cleared to make that statement to the public.

Representative King, who is in favor of charging Edward Snowden with treason and anointing Ray “Stop and Frisk” Kelly to be head of Homeland Security, said on ABC's “This Week” that complaints about a lack of oversight were "raised by people who are trying to make a name for themselves." He was believed to be referring to Representative Amash, one of the co-sponsors of a narrowly defeated measure to defund the NSA's domestic spying program.

Amash was quoted on CNN as saying "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 -- if I make that request." Thus, the legal authority to carry out the program is hidden from the people who make the laws an communication takes only when, where and how the NSA wants.

This system is called robust oversight by the Administration and compliant war criminals in Congress. In other news, Robust Congressional Oversight was seen in the Potomac river playing water polo with the Loch Ness monster, who stopped off in DC during her vacation trip to visit Bigfoot at his summer home outside Eugene, Oregon.

Date Originally Published: 
Monday, August 5, 2013
Article originally published at: 
Gerry Bello