Outspoken members of the Senate Intelligence Committee have said frequently that they wanted to warn the public about the National Security Agency’s sweeping collection of telephone records but the program’s highly classified nature prevented them from making public reference to the programs.
That, however, is not the full story. Buried in the pages of Senate Resolution 400, which established the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 1976, is a provision that allows them to try. Across those nearly 40 years, it’s never been used.
The committee’s failure to make use of the provision even once, critics say, underscores a problem with congressional oversight: Congress has proved unwilling to openly question the intelligence agencies’ claims that something must remain secret.
~ from Senate Intelligence Panel Could Seek to Declassify Documents; It Just Doesn’t by Ali Watkins ~
Yesterday morning I wrote about the need for political courage. This new revelation only underscores that point. While many have lauded the cryptic warnings of Senators Wyden and Udall, it turns out that those warnings didn't have to be half as vague as they were.
According to the above news report,
As a part of this oversight, Section 8 of the resolution lays out a process by which a member of the Intelligence Committee may seek the declassification of information that he or she thinks is of public interest, even if the executive branch labels the material top secret.
“The select committee may, subject to the provisions of this section, disclose publicly any information in the possession of such committee after a determination by such committee that the public interest would be served by such disclosure,” the section reads.
The process begins with a committee vote. If a majority of members vote to declassify, and the executive branch continues to resist, the issue is taken to the Senate floor. The chamber can do one of three things: Approve the disclosure, disapprove the disclosure or allow the Intelligence Committee to make the decision.
If Wyden and Udall were as alarmed to the degree they say they were, why is it that neither one of them invoked this part of Section 8? Why did they stand behind the false notion that their hands were completely tied?
It goes back to political courage. Both knew that making use of this process would anger Obama and his administration. They almost certainly would have suffered political repercussions. And so, they did the least that they could do. They issued cryptic statements that hinted at something nefarious without providing enough meat for their warnings to gain any significant traction in the mainstream media or the public.
Of course, now that many of the NSA's secrets have been exposed, they are utilizing their tepid efforts as proof that they were in the vanguard of alerting the public to abuses. They have turned their LACK of political courage on its head by trying to convince you of their steadfast valor and bravery!