Justin Amash On How Congressional ‘Oversight’ Really Works

Yesterday I attended a great conference at the Cato Institute on the NSA’s surveillance programs. I wrote a short piece on it at The Washington Times that you can check out here.

One thing I didn’t include in the piece, because I couldn’t write fast enough to get the direct quotes, was the incredible anecdote the libertarian-leaning Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) told about how Congress gets the proverbial stiff arm from the executive branch and intelligence community. They have all sorts of tricks up their sleeves for evading transparency, even in classified sessions with members of Congress.

Watch the whole speech here.

13 thoughts on “Justin Amash On How Congressional ‘Oversight’ Really Works”

  1. Technically Glaser, I think Amash here is complaining about the workings of the so-called "US House Intelligence Committee" within the US Congress; and not really the executive branch here.

    Yes…they are not big on "transparency"; but "oversight" is not their only function, and they do seem 'open' enough to at least play an active roll in not only undermining the larger institution of the US Congress when POTUS demands it, they also seem willing to even openly (without disclosing the nittey gritty details, of course) shift budgets around to allow POTUS the flexibility to undermine so-called "international law" and arm mercenary terrorists who threaten the sovereignty and security of other nations, as well as our own…

    From the Washington Post:


    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.



    If the Washington Post can get this level of detail on this kind of 'issue'; these people obviously are not operating in "super secret"…

    I'm really not sure why many seem to get so caught up in these processes and details…so much so the basic fundamental broader core "'issues' seem completely lost and never addressed.

    Amash seems to be chasing the "US House Intelligence Committee" now…but did this committee kill his proposed amendment addressing the NSA? Will expanding some of these general 'oversight' "responsibilities" to the entire US House fundamentally 'improve' anything…or will it just produce the opposite effect, and coddle the public into thinking the 'issue' has been "resolved"…and go back to not thinking about it at all–which is the status quo for most anyway?

    1. Your sentence about how Obamaavoided international law restrictions, seems to have disappeared from Washington Post, when one tries to find it using your link.

  2. Rep. Amash is going to eventually realize that continually poking sticks into the eyes of the GOP bear, while scoring points back home will not translate into positive results within the caucus. Standing on principle is notable but being a caustic agent within the GOP on the Hill will net him little, except a further degradation of his committee assignments. As many have found out, you can't piss on the shoes of the "Leaders" and expect them to change the way they work – and they DO expect you to work their way.

  3. Ben C's points are all excellent, and he is absolutely right about the need to address "core issues", but right now one has to start somewhere. First, if the Intelligence Committees can make it difficult if not impossible for legislators who are not on the Committee to get information- i.e., the information the intelligence services are willing to share- then there is literally nothing available. So that access must be made available. Second, the Committee Chairs themselves should not be able to shut down or delay access to other members or non-members or other Committees. Third, the Committees must be able to force much more disclosure from the intelligence services- and that may mean giving dissident members more power to compel it as well. Fourth, Congress should be legislating to change the classification system to reduce secrecy and increase transparency. Fifth, Congress should reduce the scope of permissible activities of the intelligence services and military to something more in keeping with what the Church and Pike Committees were trying to achieve, and what is now happening with the Sensenbrenner, Udall and Leahy proposals, and that may mean reducing or abolishing the operations and special plans side of the CIA and bringing it back to its original mandate as an Intelligence, as opposed to clandestine operations, service.

    Certainly, keeping the 77-year old Feinstein as monitor, house mother and mini-dictator, after so very many oversight embarrassments, and doing so while her husband is cashing in on the sale of Post Office properties and possibly inside information is a real mistake. I'd also be interested in knowing what the Bush Administration had recorded about her and her significant other, and what the NSA and FBI have on her now

  4. You are not.off.to a very good start in Congress, as Curmudgeon says. You have found yourself out there with the super-extreme right of even the tea party and you will just find yourself a one-man band. With the government closure, you are wrong..with your debf ceiling theories, you are OUT THERE and you prove you know nothing, and this is another example of that. You want to be President, but you look like a town councilman gone wild.Just remember, “the law is a ass.”

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  6. If only we had far more dedicated and forthright congressman like Justin Amash who truly honors and upholds his sacred oath, covenant and contract to this nation's ONLY Supreme Rule of Law.
    Far too many SERVING US UP on either side of the aisle treat their oath as an anomaly and believe that they are superior to their oath and the constitution.
    I can only pray that the American people will wise up and wake up by voting far more people of Justin Amash's caliber into office so that they can stand shoulder to shoulder with him in defending and honoring the U.S. Constitution.

  7. Still, people applying for employment in federal agencies are often subjected to the polygraph. And in the governments latest effort to rout out potential “insider threats,” or employees they think may choose to blow the whistle, the polygraph is viewed as an important screening process.

  8. Still, people applying for employment in federal agencies are often subjected to the polygraph. And in the governments latest effort to rout out potential a??insider threats,a?? or employees they think may choose to blow the whistle, the polygraph is viewed as an important screening process.

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