Number of Non-Intel-Committee Congressmen Who Examine NSA Programs: ‘Zero’

by Patrick Brennan

Bart Gellman, the journalist who revealed some of the NSA’s surveilance operations in the Washington Post recently, detailed how members of Congress go about monitoring the NSA’s classified operations: They don’t.

Since the programs are classified, Gellman said, very few members of Congress — essentially none, he said, who aren’t on the intelligence committees — have staffers with “who are cleared to know anything” about the NSA program. So, he said, “there’s a locked room on Capitol Hill where a member can go in there and spend a week, sitting in there reading through unbelievably complicated and voluminous reports about how [intelligence agencies] are doing what they’re doing, and the number of members who do that is zero.”

Later in the program, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan offered a gentler characterization: “Congress,” she said, “their oversight ability is not so great.”