Limited Congressional Briefings on NSA Spying “Inconsistent With the Law” Says CRS Memo

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on January 18, 2006

On January 4, 2006, Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA) sent a letter to President Bush stating that “… the practice of briefing only certain Members of the intelligence committees [on NSA programs] violates the specific requirements of the National Security Act of 1947.” A New York Times article published on January 19, 2006 discusses a January 18, 2006 CRS memorandum [titled, Statutory Procedures Under Which Congress Is To Be Informed of U.S. Intelligence Activities, Including Covert Actions], addressing Rep. Harman’s position which addresses the issue of NSA briefings limited to the so called “Gang-of-Eight” [which includes the Speaker and Minority Leader of the House, the Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate and the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the congressional intelligence committees] as follows: “If the NSA surveillance program were to considered an intelligence collection program, limiting congressional notification of the NSA program to the Gang of Eight, which some Members who were briefed about the program contend, would appear to be inconsistent with the law, which requires that the “congressional intelligence committees be kept fully and currently informed of all intelligence activities,” other than those involving covert actions.” [Note: this is the second CRS report released in the course of this month that questions the legal authority of warrantless wiretaps. The first one is here. These reports are nonpartisan, and are authored by experts in respective fields.]

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