NYT reported The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said on Wednesday that the limited Congressional briefings the Bush administration has provided on a National Security Agency eavesdropping program violated the law.
Note she is not saying the eavesdropping violated the law, she is saying that the briefings violated the law, because she was not included in the briefings.In a letter to President Bush, the representative, Jane Harman of California, said the briefings did not comply with the National Security Act of 1947. That law requires the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to be "kept fully and currently informed" about the spy agencies' activities.
And the gang of 8 was briefed. As Michelle Malkin points out, the paragraph before that readsThe briefings on the program under which Americans and other people in the United States are selected for eavesdropping without court warrants were limited to the so-called Gang of Eight. That consists of the Republican and Democratic leaders of each house and of the Intelligence Committees. Because of turnover in those positions, 14 members of Congress attended one or more briefings. Ms. Harman wrote in her letter that the law allowed briefings to be limited to the eight leaders only in cases of covert action.To the extent consistent with due regard for the protection from unauthorized disclosure of classified information relating to sensitive intelligence sources and methods or other exceptionally sensitive matters, the Director of Central Intelligence and the heads of all departments, agencies, and other entities of the United States Government involved in intelligence activities shallAlso under 50 USC 413b(c)(2)If the President determines that it is essential to limit access to the finding to meet extraordinary circumstances affecting vital interests of the United States, the finding may be reported to the chairmen and ranking minority members of the congressional intelligence committees, the Speaker and minority leader of the House of Representatives, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, and such other member or members of the congressional leadership as may be included by the President.And apparently the President determined that Jane Harman did not need to be informed.
The eavesdroping was covert, until the New York Times exposed it to try to affect the reneewal of the Patriot Act and to get some publicity for a reporter who had a book coming out this month.The National Security Agency program does not qualify as a covert action, which the law says does not include activities whose "primary purpose is to acquire intelligence," she wrote.
That is what NSA's purpose is. We use the CIA to go in and shoot someone, or blow something up.Asked about the letter, a spokesman for the National Security Council, Frederick Jones, said, "We believe Congress was briefed appropriately on this matter."
I agree.Representative Peter Hoekstra, the Intelligence Committee chairman, defended the limited briefings in a letter to Ms. Harman that was released today. He said the law's requirements were met by the briefings given to him and Ms. Harman. "The committee has been informed, in good faith by the president of the United States," Mr. Hoekstra wrote.