CRS, NSA And The Question of Congressional Notification





Last week, Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) lashed out at the Congressional Research Service for asserting that the Bush Administration may have had a legal responsibility to notify more than just eight members of Congress regarding the NSA surveillance activity.

Rep. Hoekstra, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, did not merely suggest that the CRS might be wrong; he claimed that the agency was actually biased against Bush Administration policy (Secrecy News, 02/05/06).

In fact, however, it is increasingly clear that Rep. Hoekstra is the one who misunderstood and misrepresented the requirements of the law.

Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) put the matter plainly at a February 6 Senate hearing on the NSA surveillance program, explaining that the statute which permits limited notification to eight members of Congress is relevant only to covert actions, and not to the NSA program.

"When you look at that section [50 USC 413(b)], the only thing this references as far as what this Group of Eight does is receive reports in regard to covert action. So that's really all it is. It does not cover a situation like we're talking about here at all,"
Sen. DeWine said.

"We all have a great deal of respect for these eight people...
They're leaders of the Congress. But there's no statutory authority for this group, other than the section that has to do with covert operation, and this [the NSA activity] is not a covert operation as defined in this specific section."

"I don't mean to be impolite... I guess I'm just kind of a strict constructionist, kind of a conservative guy, and that's how I read the statute," Sen. DeWine said.

See, relatedly, "Hoekstra blasts CRS for 'bias'" by Jackie Kucinich, The Hill, February 7:

http://www.hillnews.com/



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