House Intel committee fires back at Amash

The saga over who in Congress knew what about the National Security Agency’s controversial surveillance program continued Monday following an accusation made Sunday evening on Facebook by one of the program’s fiercest critics.

Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash accused the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) of withholding information from the 2010 House freshman class about the NSA’s phone and Internet data collection programs.

Posting to his Facebook account a portion of a February 2011 letter recently declassified by Director National Intelligence James Clapper, Amash said that the committee did not make available a document provided by the DOJ in 2011 describing the programs and the legal justifications.

The letter — signed by former Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Ronald Weich — was addressed to Michigan Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman, and Maryland Democratic Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

In the letter, Weich wrote that the DOJ and the “Intelligence Community jointly prepared the enclosed document that describes these two bulk collection programs, the authorities under which they operate, the restrictions imposed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the National Security Agency’s record of compliance, and the importance of these programs to the national security of the United States.”

“We believe that making this document available to all Members of Congress, as we did with a similar document in December 2009, is an effective way to inform the legislative debate about reauthorization of Section 215,” said Weich.

Amash, who began serving in Congress in January 2011, is now saying that he and other members of the 2010 House freshmen class did not receive that information provided by the Justice Department and the Intelligence Community.

“Less than two weeks ago, the Obama administration released previously classified documents regarding ‪#‎NSA‬‘s bulk collection programs and indicated that two of these documents had been made available to all Members of Congress prior to the vote on reauthorization of the Patriot Act,” said Amash.

The controversial law was renewed in March 2011.