"The programs are secret in the sense that they are classified. They are not secret, in that every member of Congress has been briefed," he said during a speech in San Jose, Calif. "These are programs that have been authored by large bipartisan majorities repeatedly since 2006."Sen. Jeff Merkley provided a strong rebuttal. First of all, Merkley said, "I had no idea about it," referring to the PRISM program. He also said that "There are several parts to this that the president glossed over."
"Your duly elected representatives have consistently been informed," he said.
The administration hasn't listened at all. We've asked for the rulings of the FISA court [...] about how it interprets the laws that Congress passed to declassified so that we can have a conversation with the American people about that. For example, the question is how is scooping up your cell phone data, which tracks where you are, my cell phone data, related to an investigation? That's the plain language of the law: "related to an investigation." Anyone would hear that and think that's a certain hurdle that has to met, that there is a crime or a potential crime or a potential national security threat that justifies scooping up your information and my information. Clearly the administration has not followed what an ordinary person would be the standard of the law here and has not been willing to release the opinion of the FISA Court about how they're interpreting that language despite repeated requests from Congress to do so. [...]
Sen. Ron Wyden adds his own rebuttal to Obama's assertion that Congress had been fully briefed with this tweet:
Clearly, there are members of Congress who are not at all in agreement with the idea that they've been fully briefed on these matters. Wyden, who was basically lied to by the director of National Intelligence, is among them.
Obama also stated that the programs have judicial overview in the secret FISA Court, insisting that this secret court "specially put together to evaluate classified programs to make sure that the executive branch, or government generally, is not abusing them, and that it's being carried out consistent with the Constitution and rule of law." Former Wyden aide Jennifer Hoelzer has essential background on how this secret court operates and protects the executive branch from scrutiny. All of its decisions, as Merkely pointed out Friday, are classified as are the reasoning and legal arguments for making them. The court is essentially a rubber stamp for the administration, and a secret one.
President Obama is going to have to come up with a better defense than this to answer the concerns of many in Congress, not to mention the people.