Congress is just like everyone else. That’s the message the National Security Agency has for Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The independent senator from Vermont sent a letter to the agency Friday, asking whether it has or is “spying” on members of Congress and other elected American officials.
The NSA provided a preliminary response Saturday that said Congress has “the same privacy protections as all U.S. persons.”
Attorney General Eric Holder similarly deflected answering the same question at a congressional hearing last summer, telling Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, that the NSA had no “intent” to spy on Congress, but the issue was better discussed in private.
On Thursday, the New York Times and the Guardian published scathing editorials that slammed the “violations” Snowden’s leaks revealed and advocated a presidential pardon for him.
Among those charges was the notion that James Clapper Jr., the director of National Intelligence, lied to Congress while testifying last March that the NSA was not collecting data on millions of Americans.
National Intelligence was quick to push back, with a letter to the editor from by general counsel Robert Litt, published in the New York Times on Saturday.
“As a witness to the relevant events and a participant in them, I know that allegation is not true,” writes Litt, explaining that Clapper misunderstood the question, but couldn’t publicly correct his mistake “because the program involved was classified.”
“This incident shows the difficulty of discussing classified information in an unclassified setting and the danger of inferring a person’s state of mind from extemporaneous answers given under pressure.”
1. Of course the NSA spies on Congress—especially those who might jeopardize their power. “Excuse me, Senator, before you make that vote, we have these pictures and emails you might want to see…”
Well, since everyone gets treated equally… does that mean *everyone* can now perjure themselves before Congress… or are some more equal than others?
P.S. I think it should be standard procedure that anyone in the government bureaucracy who refuses to answer a Congressman’s question–as the NSA did with Sanders–should be immediately fired immediately. No excuses.
P.P.S. And anyone in the bureaucracy who refuses to answer the question while *pretending* to answer the question should be prosecuted. But… I know from writing my Senators and Congressmen over the years that applying this second penalty would be a “pot-kettle” situation—I’ve even written things along the lines of: “I want a specific answer to my question. If you’re simply going to send me a useless form-letter response that spews words about ‘concern’ and the ‘importance’ of my concerns, don’t waste the postage.” Often… they still waste the postage.