Congressman: no one in Congress was told about NSA privacy violations, had to learn about it via leaks

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.)
Image credit:  USC Upstate/Flickr

Madison Ruppert
Activist Post

Members of Congress were not briefed on the many thousands of National Security Agency (NSA) privacy violations and breaches of the law that have occurred every year since 2008, according to Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).

Instead, they were forced to learn about it through leaked documents published by The Washington Post, according to Gowdy.

The leaks have led to a significant erosion of trust in government, something which was severely endangered before the latest documents were leaked.

“I wonder how many of my colleagues in Congress were briefed that there were thousands of errors made with respect to this program, because I have a sneaking suspicion the number is zero,” Gowdy said on Fox News.

“That’s how many of my colleagues were told ahead of time before we had to learn from a leaker to a newspaper that there were thousands of violations,” Gowdy said.

Others, including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), have also said that they were not made aware of the findings of the audit until recently, according to The Hill.

In the case of Feinstein, it is especially troubling since she is tasked with overseeing the NSA.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) responded to the Post report by calling for a hearing after Congress returns, in which they will demand “honest and forthright answers from the intelligence community.”

The fact that officials in the intelligence community seem to have no problem lying to Congress isn’t all that reassuring.

“I remain concerned that we are still not getting straightforward answers from the NSA,” Leahy wrote in an official statement.

“Using advanced surveillance technologies in secret demands close oversight and appropriate checks and balances, and the American people deserve no less than that,” he added.

Others have also come forward raising their concerns in the wake of the documents published by the Post. The fact that this is just happening now strongly indicates that our representatives did not, in fact, know about the audit.

The Fox News guest host, Dana Perino, noted that Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, reportedly saw the NSA document.

“The Committee did receive the report prior to its publication in the Post,” Kelsey Knight, communications director for Rogers, said to The Atlantic Wire via email. “The Committee is regularly informed on NSA’s use of its authorities, to include reporting on unintentional and technical errors, such as the ones detailed in the report.”

It’s worth noting, as The Atlantic Wire rightly did, that Rogers “has been an unwavering champion of the NSA’s surveillance systems in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks.”

“Earlier this week, he came under fire from ethics groups for allegedly having failed to share a 2011 document detailing the NSA’s phone metadata collection with other members of Congress. (It appears that the document at issue is one recently declassified by the government.)” The Atlantic Wire reported.

This did not leave Gowdy satisfied.

“I’m happy that Representative Rogers knew about it. That’s one of 435 members of the House,” Gowdy said. “How about those of us who were not on the intelligence community — Intelligence Committee but we’re asked back home about this program? What are we supposed to say?”

Gowdy said that many have come to lack any trust in the government based not only on NSA surveillance but various other recent Obama administration scandals.

“If we don’t get that figured out, I’m not worried about winning elections, I’m worried about the republic,” Gowdy said.

Gowdy went on to note that he is being presented with a consistent and troubling picture by his constituents.

“I had a town hall last night, and if I had to tell you the dominant theme, is people are scared and they are distrustful,” he said. “And that is across party lines. It’s across ideological lines. They just don’t trust government, and we’re not going to make it if we don’t get that fixed.”

Statements like these are especially interesting coming from Gowdy given that he noted the fact that he tends to favor public safety over privacy.

He pointed out that he helped Congressional leaders convince his colleagues to vote for the reauthorization of the Patriot Act but said that he’s “not going to do it anymore.”

“I’m not going to do it anymore because the author of the Patriot Act, Jim Sensenbrenner, says it’s being used a way that he never envisioned,” Gowdy said.

He went on to say that it is quite difficult for him, as a former prosecutor, to say that the government may have skewed the balance too far towards public safety, but that he believes it to be the case.

Gowdy noted that he believes there to be “a growing mood in Congress on both sides of the aisle” that agrees with his view of an imbalance away from privacy.

If Gowdy is right, there may be change brewing in Congress. Indeed, he thinks that there is an opportunity to shift the balances back towards privacy.

“[Justin Amash’s] amendment almost passed. It didn’t almost pass because people want to see this program go away, it almost passed because members of Congress feel they have no power over this program. So imagine how the people who send us to D.C. feel. We don’t think we have enough information, and we’re supposed to. So yes, there’s an opportunity to fix it,” he said.

Gowdy concluded by saying that he doesn’t believe that the new review board will be good enough, adding that there is already an advisory board, “It’s called Congress.”

“It’s called the legislative branch,” he continued, “If you want an advisory board, we have one.”

“So you’re going to have to just stop letting a few select people know what’s going on with these intelligence programs. You’re going to have to let everyone know. And if you don’t, then you’re going to find some of these tools are not available anymore,” Gowdy said.

I’d love to hear your opinion, take a look at your story tips and even your original writing if you would like to get it published. I am also available for interviews on radio, television or any other format. Please email me at Admin@EndtheLie.com

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This article first appeared at End the Lie.

Madison Ruppert is the Editor and Owner-Operator of the alternative news and analysis database End The Lie and has no affiliation with any NGO, political party, economic school, or other organization/cause. He is available for podcast and radio interviews. Madison also now has his own radio show on UCYTV Monday nights 7 PM – 9 PM PT/10 PM – 12 AM ET. Show page link here: http://UCY.TV/EndtheLie. If you have questions, comments, or corrections feel free to contact him at admin@EndtheLie.com

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