Obama threatens to veto greater intelligence oversight

Obama threatens to veto greater intelligence oversight

One of the principal weapons used by the Bush administration to engage in illegal surveillance activities — from torture to warrantless eavesdropping — was its refusal to brief the full Congressional Intelligence Committees about its activities. Instead, at best, it would confine its briefings to the so-called “Gang of Eight” — comprised of 8 top-ranking members of the House and Senate — who were impeded by law and other constraints from taking any action even if they learned of blatantly criminal acts.

This was a sham process: it allowed the administration to claim that it “briefed” select Congressional leaders on illegal conduct, but did so in a way that ensured there could be no meaningful action or oversight, because those individuals were barred from taking notes or even consulting their staff and, worse, because the full Intelligence Committees were kept in the dark and thus could do nothing even in the face of clear abuses. The process even allowed the members who were briefed to claim they were powerless to stop illegal programs. That extremely restrictive process also ensures irresolvable disputes over what was actually said during those briefings, as illustrated by recent controversies over what Nancy Pelosi and other leading Democrats were told about Bush’s torture and eavesdropping…

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