POLITICS

Justin Amash: 2011 Tea Party congress did not receive NSA documents

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Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., said that incoming 2011 freshmen congressmen — those elected during the 2010 Tea Party wave — were not provided classified documents detailing the bulk metadata collection programs authorized by the Patriot Act prior to the law's reauthorization.

"I can now confirm that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence did NOT, in fact, make the 2011 document available to Representatives in Congress, meaning that the large class of Representatives elected in 2010 did not receive either of the now declassified documents detailing these programs," Amash wrote on Facebook.

Amash was referring to the 2009 and 2011 documents that proponents of the National Security Agency's data collection program said all members of Congress were provided.

The 2011 document, which was supposed to be provided prior to the Patriot Act reauthorization, made specific that it "will" be provided to senators and cleared staff, but only said that it "may be" made available to House members. This difference in wording, which would most likely be overlooked, piqued Amash's interest.

When former Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, chaired the House Intelligence Committee, he made the 2009 document available to all members prior to the 2010 Patriot Act reauthorization. Of course, those elected in 2010 did not have access to those documents because they were private citizens at the time.

When Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., took over the intelligence committee in 2010, he hosted classified briefings on the program, but did not release the document. Susan Phalen, a spokeswoman for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, expanded on the briefings in an e-mail to the Washington Examiner:

"The House Intelligence Committee makes it a top priority to inform Members about the intelligence issues on which Members must vote. This process is always conducted consistent with the committee's legal obligation to carefully protect the sensitive intelligence sources and methods our intelligence agencies use to do their important work.

"Prior to voting on the PATRIOT Act reauthorization and the FAA reauthorization, Chairman Rogers hosted classified briefings to which all members were invited to have their questions about these authorities answered. Additionally, over the past two months, Chairman Rogers has hosted four classified briefings, with officials from the NSA and other agencies, on the Section 215 and Section 702 programs and has invited all Republican members to attend and receive additional classified briefings on the use of these tools from committee staff.

"The committee has provided many opportunities for members to have their questions answered by both the HPSCI and the NSA. And Chairman Rogers has encouraged members to attend those classified briefings to better understand how the authorities are used to protect the country."

Recall that the 2011 Patriot Act reauthorization was a tough vote for the administration. The Feb. 8, 2011, vote under special rules requiring a super-majority failed by seven votes. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, then brought the reauthorization up for a regular vote (which requires a simple majority) in May 2011 and it passed.

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