Senate Committee Classifies Votes on Approved Syrian Rebel Arms Plan

Here’s a riddle: How do you make it easier to push through legislation in Congress that is overwhelmingly opposed in the public without any political consequences?

SecrecyAnswer: Keep the votes secret.

That’s exactly what’s happened to an Obama administration plan to provide weapons directly to the Syrian rebels. The Senate committee that approved the plan was, unusually, allowed to classify their votes, presumably in order to insulate themselves from any repercussions from their constituents. Because really…why should elected representatives have to tell the people they supposedly represent how they are doing the job they were elected to do!?


The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence reportedly gave its approval last week to an Obama administration plan to provide weapons to moderate rebels in Syria, but how individual members of the committee stood on the subject remains unknown.

There was no public debate and no public vote when one of the most contentious topics in American foreign policy was decided – outside of the view of constituents, who oppose the president’s plan to aid the rebels by 54 percent to 37 percent, according to a Gallup Poll last month.

In fact, ask individual members of the committee, who represent 117 million people in 14 states, how they stood on the plan to use the CIA to funnel weapons to the rebels and they are likely to respond with the current equivalent of “none of your business:” It’s classified.

Those were, in fact, the words Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chair of the committee, used when asked a few days before the approval was granted to clarify her position for her constituents. She declined. It’s a difficult situation, she said. And, “It’s classified.”

She was not alone. In a string of interviews over days, members of both the Senate intelligence committee or its equivalent in the House were difficult to pin down on their view of providing arms to the rebels. The senators and representatives said they couldn’t give an opinion, or at least a detailed one, because the matter was classified.

It’s an increasingly common stance that advocates of open government say undermines the very principle of a representative democracy.

“It’s like a pandemic in Washington, D.C., this idea that ‘I don’t have to say anything, I don’t have to justify anything, because I can say it’s secret,’” said Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute, a Washington-based libertarian think tank.

In our increasingly Orwellian country, it’s getting hard to tell the difference between parody and reality. But this is very real. And Harper is correct: it is a pandemic.

Everything is secret in Washington. Who are we at war with? That’s classified. Who is the government spying on? That’s classified. Are we bombing multiple countries on a regular basis with remote-controlled airplanes? That’s classified. Which senators voted for an incredibly unpopular and dangerous plan to give weapons to unaccountable Syrian militias as they fight in a chaotic civil war that should have nothing to do with us? None of your god damned business.

The US government in 2012 rejected public requests for documents more often than at any time since President Barack Obama took office, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.

“The administration cited exceptions built into the law to avoid turning over materials more than 479,000 times, a roughly 22 percent increase over the previous year,” The Associated Press reports.

“The government cited national security to withhold information at least 5,223 times – a jump over 4,243 such cases in 2011 and 3,805 cases in Obama’s first year in office. The secretive CIA last year became even more secretive: Nearly 60 percent of 3,586 requests for files were withheld or censored for that reason last year, compared with 49 percent a year earlier.”

According to Information Security Oversight Office, the Executive Branch alone made 92,064,862 classifications decisions in 2011. In the same year, it cost the federal government $11 billion just to keep its own secrets.

The trend towards reckless classification in government will prove to be one of the most pernicious in the very near future. The one opportunity for Americans, in our ostensibly three branched government, to challenge the absurd levels of secrecy are the courts. Unfortunately, they have given the state incredible deference when it comes to state secrets privileges.

11 thoughts on “Senate Committee Classifies Votes on Approved Syrian Rebel Arms Plan”

  1. Glaser…any members of the committees who wanted to make their positions known at the time of the so-called "vote(s)" were free to do so….and some did. Is a vote count really that big of a deal? What's "secret"? The fact that the House and Senate "intelligence committees" reached some sort of "consensus", or the fact that Obama is openly arming al Qaeda affiliated militants? All this info is readily available in the public domain for anyone interested…

    Anyway…the "approval" wasn't really "Congressional approval" for the 'program' or the policy itself, as the 'program' was already well underway, and the arms are just one aspect of the overall 'program'/policy…

    As Karen DeYoung from the WaPo explained:


    The agreement allows money already in the CIA’s budget to be reprogrammed for the Syria operation, a covert action that President Obama approved early last month. The infrastructure for the program, which also includes training, logistics and intelligence assistance — most of it based in Jordan — is already in place and the arms would begin to flow within the next several weeks.

    Obama opted to approve the program as a CIA covert action to avoid international law restrictions on military efforts to overthrow another government and the need for wider congressional approval. Although approval by the intelligence committees was not required to initiate the program, the money must be taken from other programs the committees had already approved.

    Officials declined to indicate the overall cost of the program but said it was significantly less than what it would cost the military to undertake the same operation.


    You don't have to agree with the policy Glaser; however, it's incumbent on all decent Americans to "Support the Troops"…or, in this case, "the Mercenary Terrorists". Stay the course…

    1. Of course, no politician would ever vote one way and then tell people they did the opposite.

    2. Well…if they tell us what how they voted, we might not re-elect them. It isn't as if Americans are eager to invest dollars and American military lives in a war which does NOTHING to protect American safety. Assad has his hands full, he isn't going to invade the U.S. anytime soon.

      It is a religious war, like the war between the Protestants and Catholics which went on in the U.K., Ireland and Northern Ireland from the days after Henry VIII clear up until 1997. The United States NEVER rushed to save Catholics who'd been roughed up or sent missiles to the U.K. to obliterate Northern Ireland because that country committed an atrocity upon Protestants.


      Peacefully trading with other countries instead of invading them, murdering hundreds of thousands of their civilian citizens and turning their cities to rubble is NOT isolationism.

    3. You must be kidding. Clandestine or not the policy is illegal under international law. It is also feeding the conflict instead of reducing it. A majority of Americans have already addressed the policy and turned their thumbs down. It is incumbent upon all decent officials to adopt a policy that reflects the wishes of the people who put them in office, and it is more than appropriate for the people to oppose any contrary policy. So, yes, "stay the course" and keep demanding that the Government finally exercise some good judgment.

    4. the facts are obama is giving aid and weapons to al queda in syria's rebellion to over throw a democratic government america has declared alqueda to be an enemy since the u.s.s cole bombing

      • First President to Have His Administration Fund an Organization Tied to the Cop-Killing Terrorist Group, the Weather Underground (Source: National Review)

      that's treason and treason is punishable by death

      USC › Title 18 › Part I › Chapter 115 › § 2381
      18 USC § 2381 – Treason

      US Code
      Current through Pub. L. 113-31. (See Public Laws for the current Congress.)
      Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death,

      or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

      The Constitution of the United States: A Transcription

      Article. II.
      Section. 1.
      last paragraph
      Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:–"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
      Section. 3.
      He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers;
      he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,
      and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.

      Article III.
      Section. 2.
      The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.
      Section. 3.
      Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
      The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
      Article. IV.
      Section. 2.
      The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.
      A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.

      Article. I.
      Section. 2.
      The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.
      Section. 3.
      The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

      Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

    1. Since telling American citizens information about what they are doing is considered "aiding the enemy", its clear that the American government already views American citizens as the enemy

      1. That´s a very good point, Mac, and becomming more and more evident every day. Thanks!

  2. "Keep the vote secret", that's not the only thing that is secret in america to public, the entire surveillance operation has been secret for decade, the wars, the wars operation, the creation of wars, "we do not torture" (according to Bush) was so secret that even his attorneys didn't know until they legalized it..?

    So what is different then and now…, absolutely nothing. Is just that these guy's or women's, they want to be reelected so they can continue with their "secret mission" to the American people and proudly put a stamp on their vote calling it "top secret".

  3. Like general government worker and military personnel who want America first these senators are hiding from AIPAC.

  4. A government that will not abide by the Constitution and its constraints is illegitimate! Now, what do we 'the people' do about it?

  5. I think soon enough they will classify votes on presidential candidates. What do you expect from a police state.

  6. Easy answer …. assume your incumbents voted in favor of this … and then vote against them next time up. And no, that doesn't mean vote for the other coke-pepsi choice that would do the same thing. There are always other names on the ballot. Or you can write in. And if there aren't other candidates …. well, you can run too.

    1. I'd take it further than that. We need to contact every organization that we know of, and might be interested, and has the resources, to start a campaign against ALL current members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. They should be called, emailed, snail mailed, and physically protested wherever they go, until they do the following:

      1) reveal their own votes, keeping in mind that we will not believe that they voted "no" if they don't do point 2), below,
      2) reveal the votes of each and every one of their colleagues, and
      3) pass a law preventing votes in any body of Congress from being "Classified."

      Secret votes of a legislative body are legally null and void (or should be so regarded), and should be treated as such.

  7. I like this riddle better: how do you expect a monopoly on judicial and protection services (government) not to pervert the law in favor of themselves and at the expense of those they “protect”?

  8. The number of facts and ideas given here are quite considerable and up to the level to my considerations, I'm convinced to see it again in the future to have better results.

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  11. There always stands number of the issues when you are talking or considering the board or the committee to work and classify the issues that stands with the Syrian rebels and to plan with the army.

  12. The senators and representatives said they couldn’t give an opinion, or at least a detailed one, because the matter was classified.

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