Obama wants keep Bush policy on CIA briefings
The Obama administration just lodged a strong objection to efforts by Democrats on Capitol Hill to remedy the problem of the CIA briefing too few members of Congress on top-secret subjects. Turns out Obama wants to keep Bush's policies.
Such secret briefings are what got House Speaker and San Francisco Rep. Nancy Pelosi in hot water just weeks ago, over what she was told when about torture. Typically, highly sensitive briefings are limited to the top Democratic and Republican leaders of Congress and the Intelligence Committees, known as the Gang of 8.
The problem as Democrats have described it is that the gang members are sworn to secrecy, making it impossible for any to mount legislative resistance to a White House policy or conduct effective oversight. That's the reason they said they were helpless when confronting former President Bush on torture, surveillance and the rest in the aftermath 9/11.
House Dems want to expand that briefing to more than 40 members. A bit unwieldy perhaps, but Obama's threatening a veto.
Here's what the White House says today in its "statement of administration policy" on the intelligence authorization bill, H.R. 2701, which the House will take up tomorrow. Such statements, known as SAP's, are always worded with great care:
"The Administration strongly objects to section 321, which would replace the current 'Gang of 8' notification procedures on covert activities. There is a long tradition spanning decades of comity between the branches regarding intelligence matters, and the Administration has emphasized the importance of providing timely and complete congressional notification, and using 'Gang of 8' limitations only to meet extraordinary circumstances affecting the vital interests of the United States.
"Unfortunately, section 321 undermines this fundamental compact between the Congress and the President as embodied in Title V of the National Security Act regarding the reporting of sensitive intelligence matters -- an arrangement that for decades has balanced congressional oversight responsibilities with the President's responsibility to protect sensitive national security information. Section 321 would run afoul of tradition by restricting an important established means by which the President protects the most sensitive intelligence activities that are carried out in the Nation's vital national security interests."
In other words, trust us.