Congressional ignorance about the National Security Agency’s phone record collection exists because lawmakers skipped briefings on the program, according to President Obama’s spokesman, who maintained that the program had sufficient congressional oversight.
“I think it’s been amply demonstrated that with regards to both sections of the Patriot Act and the programs that exist under those authorities that members of Congress were briefed or had the opportunity to be briefed on them,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters during the gaggle today. “And I would point you to statements by Senator Reid and to the simple facts. And it is certainly the case that some members of Congress did not avail themselves of the opportunity to be briefed, but that’s certainly their prerogative.”
Last week, President Obama claimed that the recently revealed programs “are secret in the sense that they’re classified, but they’re not secret in the sense that when it comes to telephone calls, every member of Congress has been briefed on this program.”
Carney had to walk that back. “The chair and ranking members of the intelligence committee have made clear that every memberwas advised of this and had the opportunity for briefings,” he told reporters, per the Daily Caller. “As was widely reported over the weekend, the Department of Justice and intelligence officials have taken multiple actions to inform members of these authorities, including providing in-person briefings and classified white papers. The classified white papers were provided by the intelligence committees in December of 2009 and 2011, along with a formal request that the white papers be made available for review by all members.”