President Barack Obama’s chief defense of his administration’s wide-ranging data-gathering programs Friday: Congress authorized them, with “every member” well aware of the details.
Not so, say many members of Congress — Democrats and Republicans alike.
Typically, members of Congress “don’t receive this kind of briefing,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told POLITICO Friday. They wouldn’t have known about the programs unless they were on an intelligence committee, attended special sessions last held in 2011 or specifically asked to be briefed – something they would only know to do if they were clued in by an colleague who was already aware.Durbin said he learned about the two programs himself only after requesting a briefing under “classified circumstances” after being urged to do so by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
Congressional leadership and intelligence committees had access to information about the programs, he said — but the “average member” of Congress likely wouldn’t have been aware of the breadth of the telephone and Internet surveillance.
There’s no public record of who has attended any of these sessions — and even the Obama administration couldn’t confirm the president’s claim that “every member of Congress” had been briefed.
The White House declined to comment for this story. Keep on reading…
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