Despite several congressional requests to the executive branch for briefings on Israel's air strike on Syria in September, Congress still remains largely in the dark, POGO learned yesterday. On October 20, Reps. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), respectively the ranking members of the House intelligence and foreign relations committees, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal charging that:
We regret that the administration has ignored numerous letters from Congress asking that all members be briefed on the Israeli airstrike. Failing to disclose the details of this incident to the legislative branch, preventing due diligence and oversight -- but talking to the press about it -- is not the way to win support for complex and difficult diplomatic efforts to combat proliferation by rogue nations. [emphasis added]
The Senate intelligence committee officially told me "no comment" yesterday. However, a congressional staffer told me that "the issue has been closely held. The leadership of the defense committees and Intel committees have been briefed, but not the general membership of the Congress as you correctly noted in Ros-Lethinen’s OpEd." Other sources told me that they were not aware of their full committees being briefed yet either.
Perhaps of greater practical concern for congressional oversight is, though a few select members have been briefed, none of their staff, which members depend upon for their expertise and knowledge, have not been allowed to accompany them, POGO has been told.
Though the Senate intelligence committee would not speak about the issue, its chairman, Senator John Rockefeller (D-WV), then the ranking Democrat on the committee:
... complained in a 2003 letter to Vice President Cheney that his briefing on the NSA eavesdropping was unsatisfactory. "Given the security restrictions associated with this information, and my inability to consult staff or counsel on my own, I feel unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse, these activities," he wrote. [link]
-- Nick Schwellenbach