Mike Rogers’ Excuses for Withholding Dragnet Notice Get Stupider

Congratulations to the WaPo which is catching up to what I first reported here, that Mike Rogers didn’t tell House Members about a notice of the PATRIOT Act dragnet programs before the vote. (Note: WaPo makes an error when it claims Congress got the previous notice in 2009; Silvestre Reyes and Dianne Feinstein sat on that letter for 2 months after they got it.)

Sadly for Mike Rogers, his excuses are getting stupider.

Admittedly, his past excuses were pretty stupid. In that version, the House Intelligence Committee suggested that having four briefings (for Republicans! only?!) in the last several months made up for not providing notice back in 2011.

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.

But in this version, House Intelligence Committee spokesperson Susan Phalen claims providing notice of the need to be informed is a side issue.

A spokeswoman for the House committee, Susan Phalen, declined to say whether the panel had voted to withhold the letter or if the decision was made by Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.).

“Because the letter by itself did not fully explain the programs, the Committee offered classified briefings, open to all Members of Congress, that not only covered all of the material in the letter but also provided much more detail in an interactive format with briefers available to fully answer any Members’ questions,” Phalen wrote in an e-mail. “The discussion of the letter not being distributed is a side issue intended to give the false impression that Congress was denied information. That is not the case.” [my emphasis]

Remember, what (according to the White Paper) Rogers did not do was write a letter telling Members of Congress there was an issue they might want to learn about. Dianne Feinstein sent a letter, dated February 8, 2011, telling colleagues they could come read the letter from the Administration, dated February 2, 2011. According to the White Paper, Mike Rogers sent no such letter — not to tell Congressmen there was a letter, not to tell them what the briefings they held instead were about. So the briefings were pointless, because without notice of them, no one would attend.

That’s not a “side issue.” That goes to the central issue of whether 65 of the yes votes for the PATRIOT Act had had adequate notice what they were voting for.

At this point, the House Intelligence Committee is not even trying to deny that. The only question remaining is whether Rogers provided no notice on his own, with the consent of the committee, or at the behest of the Administration that gave them the letter in the first place.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

7 replies
  1. peasantparty says:

    From Wyden and Udall’s Statement:

    “In particular, we believe the public deserves to know more about the violations of the secret court orders that have authorized the bulk collection of Americans’ phone and email records under the USA PATRIOT Act.”

    Yes, Americans do need to understand the dragnet. Especially since CONGRESS does not know much about it, and those that do are a select group of Republicans!

    Just what the HELL is the secret court order, Mr. Rogers? You cannot run a government, nor it’s laws and agencies in secrecy. Are you doing a dragnet for Journalists and those that support them? Are you dragnetting anyone that is not happy with the current Administration? What kind of court order would legally give the okay to scoop up all innocent Americans?

  2. DW415 says:

    Marcy, you are doing yeoman’s work on this topic – thank you! Feinstein is my Senator, and I have previously written her about my opposition to the NSA’s illegal operations. I received back a well-crafted response which of course is now wholly discredited. I’d like to write her again to get her response after the latest revelations. What specifics could I point out that are the most irrefutable given her position? I’m not at all hopeful of changing her mind, but would really like to put her on the spot in order to get a response that I can keep for posterity and share so that others can see the mendacity at work. Any specifics you or others here can give would be greatly appreciated!

  3. Gary T says:


    What I want to know is, after all this blatant lying to the American people, what are Feinstein’s chances for re-election.
    I hope they are going down precipitously.

    She is a smarmy, lying, apparatchik who has been caught with her panties down. She keeps digging her lying narrative deeper and deeper.

  4. P J Evans says:

    @Gary T:
    I hope she plans to retire at the end of her current terms (expires 2018). Unfortunately, she has enough name recognition that last year she steamrolled the few primary opponents she had. (No, I voted for another D in the primary.)

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