“The White House Needs to Hire an Archivist”

WTF is the Administration doing, claiming it has briefed members of Congress on the warrantless wiretap program when it hasn’t?

After the domestic surveillance program was revealed in 2005, formerSenate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham (D-FL) said thatWhite House briefings that he attended in the Vice President’s office failed to disclose that the administration was spying on Americans:

There was no reference made to the fact that we weregoing to…begin unwarranted, illegal — and I think unconstitutional —eavesdropping on American citizens.

Shortly thereafter, Cheney fired back at Graham, arguing, “Well that’s not true. [Graham] knew.” The White House accused him of “misremembering the briefings.”

In a recent interview with ThinkProgress, Sen. Graham told us that,after the controversy erupted in late 2005, the White House providedhim with dates when they alleged Graham had been briefed. Graham saidhe consulted his famous spiral bound notebooks and determined he had not been briefed on these dates:

I mean, I’m not surprised they didn’t brief members of Congress fully (or at least, the Democratic MOCs). But why claim you had when you hadn’t? Particularly when one of them (as TP points out) is a notoriously anal note-taker?

Most interesting is the Administration’s claim that Graham was briefed on April 10, 2002, which his spiral notebooks also disprove. That’s because it was purportedly a meeting with just Graham, and no no one else, after they had briefed Pelosi (in her role as ranking member of HPSCI), Goss, and Shelby.

I’d be inclined to get Pelosi on the record to find out how many of these early briefings she attended. Because I find it curious that the current Speaker may have been the only Dem briefed on key aspects of this program in its early days.

  1. casual observer says:

    You know, an impeachment subcommittee hearing would be an excellent context in which to sort this out. I believe that would be a context in which Admin. cooperation might be a bit more forthcoming.

  2. emptywheel says:

    casual observer

    But that’s one of my points. What does it mean that, if the Administration told Dems about the warrantless wiretap program, they only told the woman who is now the Speaker of the House? How does that constrain our choices?

  3. Kagro X says:

    Why claim you had when you hadn’t?

    Because fuck you, that’s why. What’re you gonna do about it?

  4. Anonymous says:

    You know, the â€White House†is not an abstraction that does briefings. Someone should ask for the names of the people from the WH who supposedly briefed Graham. That ought to be fun, them claiming there was a briefing but not offering up the names of the people who supposedly conducted it.

  5. P J Evans says:

    If the WH lies about something, and no one in Congress or the media calls them on it, is it still a lie?

    I have to admit, this maladmistration has gold-plated brass ones. Lying about briefings, when the person you briefed actually takes notes and keeps them along with a schedule, is … ’chutzpah’ isn’t strong enough.

  6. Anonymous says:

    â€Because fuck you, that’s why. What’re you gonna do about it?â€

    Kagro, I don’t know; but it is looking increasingly like it will involve mostly alcohol.

  7. katie Jensen says:

    It would explain Pelosi’s stance. But I think it’s just as likely that they said they briefed her but didn’t. How do you prove they didn’t say it? How do you prove it without video or audio? You can’t.

    It wasn’t in my notes doesn’t necessarily prove it wasn’t told or that he understood it properly. There are so many ambiguous bullshite ways to argue it. None that are believable but â€I don’t know†takes them pretty damn far. No one believed them but it’s plausible so they will take it to the hilt. We all know better but it keeps them from sinking all the way to the bottom. The bottom will only come with impeachment hearings. Because then the american people will finally as a whole believe that impeachment means something is WRONG. To authoritarians everywhere is will finally spell the end.

    These guys are so sociopath it is scary. Really scary.

  8. emptywheel says:


    Jane Harman was first purportedly briefed on 1/29/03 (after Gephardt stepped down and Nancy moved to Minority leader, after which Harman became ranking member in HPSCI).

  9. Anonymous says:

    Pelosi needs to issue a statement and clear this up. The Administration claims it briefed Graham; Graham says they did not. I see no reaon to asume that Pelosi was briefed.

  10. Mimikatz says:

    It would explain a lot about Pelosi’s attitude toward the surveillance/data mining stuff, but it is just as likely that they didn’t brief her either. Maybe they just briefed Tom Delay. Graham was able to prove that one of the supposed briefings was on a day he wasn’t even in DC.

  11. Anonymous says:

    One of the â€tidbits†from the WaPo article that EW referenced that I found â€most interesting†was this:

    â€By Graham’s account, the official said, â€it appears that we held a briefing to say that nothing is different . . . . Why would we have a meeting in the vice president’s office to talk about a change and then tell the members of Congress there is no change?â€

    More damning evidence as to just who really has been running the show in the WH these last 6+ years (Certainly this is not news here *g*).

    I’m betting that not only Graham didn’t get briefed, but that Junya didn’t either. What the â€Lump†don’t know, he can’t â€accidently†spill.

  12. Anonymous says:

    DHinMI – Or maybe it was Billy Graham; he’s famous for being in the White House all the time (used to be anyway). beautiful reference to Larry Graham, a very important musician few know about.

  13. JohnLopresti says:

    Then there is the rulemaking, conditions for a visitation: consider that plaintive by Sen.Leahy on the occasion of Rove’s declaration of immunity from subpoena. At para.3, Leahy’s August 2007 rant: â€whatever the White House provides initially must end the matter, and the Senate Judiciary Committee must agree to stop its pursuit of the truth. They also demand that the information they chose to provide be shared behind closed doors, not under oath and without any record of the responses. This matter is too important to the public’s trust in federal law enforcement to be left to a self-serving, one-time only, secret interview on which there can be no follow up.

    â€The White House said it was willing to provide some information under these secret conditions, but when pressed to do so in a manner that would allow for follow up, this information suddenly becomes somehow ’privileged’ and withheld from Congress. How can that be?â€â€¦

    Then there is the Waas article August 2007 in NatlJ describing the June 20, 2002 7am Cheney TelephoneCall to Sen.BobGraham at home, re wiretapLeak.

    ExParte communications actually are part of the standard compartmentalization protections for the G-8; like the 1×2×6, though, it seems 4thBranch may have waxed egregiously innovative with the modality. I would give the executive branch some credit for resourcefulness at a disorganized time facing an asymmetrical problem, trying to deploy its most snoopy tools and to oversee all the vagaries of those implementations. It is fortunate the 110th congress has begun to address the dismissive responses of the executive branch in the executive branch’s interface with the 108 and 109th congress.

    I wonder about the hearing on the executive branch’s use of the federal regulatory process next week in Senate Judiciary committee, whether that, investigation too will show yet another facet of the administrations eschewing interlocution with congress, favoring instead the trusty fiat. A lot of those ploys got halted by courts during this presidency already. It is going to be a stretch for the executive to explain its rationale by extrapolating some Yoo sovereignty theory regarding terrorism, so it might apply to, say, opening public lands to energy sector extractions.

  14. Mary says:

    It’s worth it to go to TProgress and actually click on and listen to the audio of their questioning. Graham lays out that the thinks datamining is what they were doing and that data mining was not briefed, and he talks a bit about the fact that they may have mostly focused on a straw man issue in the briefings (foreign to foreign calls that go through a US based switching station) on which there might be broad agreement (and which probably isn’t actually an issue under FISA anyway) and that was the misdirection for a program that was actually about quite a bit more.

    Also, go look at Hayden’s Friday speech excerpts if you get a chance. Gist: It hurts national security when people leak the Executive Branch’s criminal acts.

  15. joanneleon says:

    Visitor logs? Why would this all come down to Graham’s notes? Aren’t there visitor logs or some other record of meetings? I mean, Cheney wasn’t able to destroy visitor logs for his office too, was he?

    â€A lawyer for Vice President Dick Cheney told the Secret Service in September to eliminate data on who visited Cheney at his official residence, a newly disclosed letter states.â€


    I’m thoroughly confused on who, in the gang of eight, was briefed on the surveillance program and who wasn’t, and whether or not they objected, etc. Do we have any clear statement from Pelosi as to whether/when she was briefed and what her actions were afterward? This one, reported by TPM, didn’t help clear things up very much:

    â€She made clear her disagreement with the program continuing despite Comey’s objection,†Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly tells TPMmuckraker. Pelosi was part of the Gang of Eight in her capacity as House Democratic leader in 2004.

  16. P J Evans says:

    I’m seeing the possibility of a hearing on these (non-)briefings where eight or nine of the witnesses are or were in Congress. H*ll yes, they need to be asked, under oath, about these briefings: not the contents, but if the briefings actually happened and when and where they took place.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Visitor logs would only matter if Graham went to the WH or OEB or someplace like that. If he was briefed by the â€White House,†it would probably be in the room on the fourth floor of the Capitol where they handle classified matters.