Amash Reveals How Congressional Intelligence Committees Are Executive Branch Puppets Rather Than Oversight

It gets especially good at 5:33 (thanks to the antiwar blog for pointing this out).

Justin Amash spoke at the Cato Institute this week and tried to explain to us outsiders what really goes on with the intelligence committees of Congress.

While some conservatives have gotten in the habit of reflexively siding with executive power, the Constitution sets limits on how far that can go. So does Conservative principle. If people can be entrusted with unaccountable power then why even bother with representative government? On the other hand, if we are going to live in a representative Republic, then such secrecy must be limited as much as possible. There is no point in voting for people in your government if their most important actions are going to be kept secret from you. Nor is there any point in giving Congress the power to declare war if the President can secretly use intelligence and military assets to make war inevitable.

According to Amash, the classified briefings are almost completely useless to Congressional participants. The briefings are too vague to be of value. When they take questions, they will only admit to something if you formulate a precise question that they can’t honestly deny. One colleague went to several briefings asking the same question in a slightly different way. Finally, he did it right and they confessed that they did indeed carry out the actions being asked about.

Amash recounts how the intelligence committee deliberately sent out an invitation to see a classified documents in such a way that most members of Congress wouldn’t notice it. Amash and the handful of people he managed to bring with him were the only members of Congress who went to the briefing room to see the document (only available from nine to noon on a day when the Representatives were about to leave town after having a vote). To see the document, viewers had to sign a non-disclosure agreement so that they were banned from sharing what they read with any other member of Congress or anyone else. Rather than having oversight, they were effectively gagged.

Amash shows us that the intelligence committees are co-opted by the Executive Branch and have become means by which it controls and evades real Congressional oversight.

The bottom line is that an unaccountable President, no matter what his party, is a despot. And by blinding the “eyes” of Congress the Executive Branch has made itself unaccountable.