Video: Less than half of the Senate shows up for briefing on NSA?

posted at 4:01 pm on June 15, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

We can look at this in one of two ways. Maybe only 47 of the current 100 US Senators didn’t know enough about the NSA surveillance programs to consider themselves fully informed and satisfied that the intelligence community doesn’t cross the line when it comes to spying on Americans. Or, perhaps 53 of the current 100 US senators don’t really care whether the NSA is spying on Americans — at least not enough to put off plans for a long weekend:

A recent briefing by senior intelligence officials on surveillance programs failed to attract even half of the Senate, showing the lack of enthusiasm in Congress for learning about classified security programs. [WATCH VIDEO]

Many senators elected to leave Washington early Thursday afternoon instead of attending a briefing with James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, Keith Alexander, the head of the National Security Agency (NSA), and other officials.

The Senate held its last vote of the week a little after noon on Thursday, and many lawmakers were eager to take advantage of the short day and head back to their home states for Father’s Day weekend.

Only 47 of 100 senators attended the 2:30 briefing, leaving dozens of chairs in the secure meeting room empty as Clapper, Alexander and other senior officials told lawmakers about classified programs to monitor millions of telephone calls and broad swaths of Internet activity. The room on the lower level of the Capitol Visitor Center is large enough to fit the entire Senate membership, according to a Senate aide.

This was the third briefing for Congress on this topic in a week, so perhaps some of these members felt they already had enough information to feel comfortable with the programs. Tom Coburn explained that he has already been fully briefed as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and didn’t need to stick around. That didn’t cut much ice with committee chair Dianne Feinstein, who vented considerable frustration at the poor attendance:

“It’s hard to get this story out. Even now we have this big briefing — we’ve got Alexander, we’ve got the FBI, we’ve got the Justice Department, we have the FISA Court there, we have Clapper there — and people are leaving,” she said.

I don’t often agree with Feinstein, but she’s spot-on here. Isn’t a briefing on whether the executive branch is abusing the First and Fourth Amendments worth canceling a flight and staying over until Friday? Father’s Day is Sunday, after all, not Friday.

Did the briefing work? Politico notes that the biggest Senate critics haven’t reacted yet, and some others have said that the NSA and DNI should have been more transparent earlier to avoid the kind of reaction seen over the last week:

Still, some of the harshest critics of the NSA’s programs declined comment following the briefing, including Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Paul held a news conference just minutes before the briefing in which he indicated he might help sue the government over surveillance; Wyden and Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) expressed public skepticism with Alexander’s assertions that phone records may have helped avert “dozens” of terrorist events.

And several senators declined to discuss the tone of the meeting, even when granted anonymity. But even with critical public statements being lobbed at Alexander and Clapper about the surveillance programs through media outlets, Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) described the tone as “constructive.” …

Still, there’s a sense that more should have been done sooner so that senators could have been been prepared for the storm of questions that followed media reports on the NSA programs. Briefings were made available on the telephone records programs to senators in the past, but it was up to individual members to attend them.

“It would have been helpful a long time ago. Their argument now is this has been vetted by Congress and the courts. And to some degree that’s true but in very limited ways,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, a member of Republican leadership. “Their attempts now are kind of after the fact. Very reactionary.”

“They have not done a particularly good job in explaining it to the American people,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

And they still haven’t.

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and the flukers in the media call a cleric a “moderate”.

Obama’s brothers win, apace.

Wake up, idiots of the world.

PC will kill all.

That picture of the scumhag is perfect for the USA of today.

Schadenfreude on June 15, 2013 at 4:05 PM

Surprising that is was this high.

oldroy on June 15, 2013 at 4:07 PM

The Senators don’t give a crap about anything except their own power.
Perhaps Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are the only exceptions left?

Most of the democratic Senators and half of the Republican ones really make me ill……

redguy on June 15, 2013 at 4:08 PM

Maybe they thought that Clapper would lie to them as well..and at this point what difference doe it make…?

d1carter on June 15, 2013 at 4:13 PM

Rand Paul are the only exceptions left?

Most of the democratic Senators and half of the Republican ones really make me ill……

redguy on June 15, 2013 at 4:08 PM

Rand Paul is for amnesty. Say good night.

The US gov’t is rogue, from both sides.

Bad things will follow, soon, starting with Syria. You ain’t seen nothin’, yet.

Schadenfreude on June 15, 2013 at 4:13 PM

ALL the Big Brother Lovers here trust Dianne Feinstein and Obama and could care less whether Tea Party or pro life groups are being targeted by the NSA.

I’m disappointed in this country. We’ve changed for the worst. I’d rather be in France. The French wouldn’t welcome this surveillance. They’d fight against this tyranny. The French have more respect for the individual’s rights then we do now.

Even the sheeple in England are more outraged then we are. I wouldn’t even call Americans sheep. Sheep stray and need to be corralled. We are more like robot sheep or rather an NPCs in a video game. We are Non Player Characters.

BoxHead1 on June 15, 2013 at 4:19 PM

Isn’t a briefing on whether the executive branch is abusing the First and Fourth Amendments worth canceling a flight and staying over until Friday?

If that ” briefing” was about whether the executive branch is abusing the First and Fourth Amendments ….. and how do we know it was about that and not about lying for Hussein’s crimes ?

burrata on June 15, 2013 at 4:20 PM

They didn’t know about it before and they don’t want know about it now.

“I don’t know” seems to be the current craze in DC.

Curtiss on June 15, 2013 at 4:22 PM

So, the FBI was there? I wonder if they were as knowledgeable about this as Director Mueller bothered to be about the IRS investigation the FBI is suppose to have underway?

Cindy Munford on June 15, 2013 at 4:26 PM

My opinion is that if 47 show up, it is practically as good as all of them. I mean, with 47 Senators briefed, it is no longer information entrusted to a cabal of committee members and that is the larger point. That every individual Senator gets the briefing is less of the point to me than the notion that all who wanted to show up COULD get a briefing and MANY of them did. The light has apparently been shone on things. That is a step in the right direction.

crosspatch on June 15, 2013 at 4:26 PM

You know it had to be a pretty even split or possibly more Democrats missing for names not to have been named.

Cindy Munford on June 15, 2013 at 4:27 PM


“Our government spied on every single one of your phone calls but couldn’t find two pot-smoking deadbeat Bostonians with a hotline to terrorist central in Chechnya. Really?… And it’s built an apparatus to sneak into all of the good guys’ communications but…whoopsi-daisy… It missed the Fort Hood murderer of our own troops despite this Islamic terrorist declaring his ideology in numerous army counselling sessions and on his own business cards. But, whoops, no red flags there. Really?”


http://therightscoop.com/full-speech-sarah-palin-at-faith-and-freedom-coalitions-2013-road-to-majority-conference/

burrata on June 15, 2013 at 4:30 PM

crosspatch on June 15, 2013 at 4:26 PM

Y’know they were briefed before. Just cause they are “briefed” doesn’t mean they are told the truth. The NSA already LIED in SWORN TESTIMONY. Man, the BBLs are something.

BoxHead1 on June 15, 2013 at 4:31 PM

Question is, what was the quality of the briefing. Clapper already has lied to Congress, so how can they trust a classified briefing from him? More importantly, how can we, the citizens of the US, trust either his briefing or what the Senators came away with?

AZfederalist on June 15, 2013 at 4:35 PM

most senators are showboats, spending hours in hair and makeup and in tanning salons. They really are just money men…rolled out for fund raising events, etc.

they don’t read bills, the Rs never really think through a long term anti-left strategy…they are not men/women of vision…they won’t stand up for much, they might get their hair mussed up

r keller on June 15, 2013 at 4:37 PM

Where is this list of senators who attended or did not attend? I want to find out if my senators were in attendance or not. Even the root article from the home had no link to the list of senators who attended and those that did not. Seems to me the article here and there is unfinished until you publish this list of senators who attended and did not attend.

paulsur on June 15, 2013 at 4:47 PM

If they impose amnesty they don’t have to worry about these corruption scandals anymore, and it sounds like they have the amnesty con all planned out between the House and Senate.

FloatingRock on June 15, 2013 at 4:49 PM

There is no longer anything resembling the republic our founders established. They were pushed too far, they responded. Will we?

jukin3 on June 15, 2013 at 4:53 PM

Phony, parasitic elitist bastards.

rplat on June 15, 2013 at 4:55 PM

burrata on June 15, 2013 at 4:30 PM

I watched that live on C-span. It was good.

Reposting this!

The Governor’s Syria solution.

“Let Allah sort it out.”

Heh.

wolfsDad on June 15, 2013 at 12:55 PM

bluefox on June 15, 2013 at 5:00 PM

The Senators don’t give a crap about anything except their own power.
Perhaps Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are the only exceptions left?

Most of the democratic Senators and half of the Republican ones really make me ill……

redguy on June 15, 2013 at 4:08 PM

I’d add Mike Lee to that list

gophergirl on June 15, 2013 at 5:01 PM

Via one of the comments: http://www.peekinthewell.net/blog/if-palin-had-become-president/

davidk on June 15, 2013 at 4:45 PM

If Sarah Palin had become POTUS,
Soros would have moved the Husseins to Kenya

burrata on June 15, 2013 at 5:02 PM

davidk on June 15, 2013 at 4:55 PM

LOL, that’s about right!

bluefox on June 15, 2013 at 5:03 PM

paulsur on June 15, 2013 at 4:47 PM

Inquiring minds want to know.

bluefox on June 15, 2013 at 5:04 PM

“They have not done a particularly good job in explaining it to the American people,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (Communist-Vt.).

Fixed it for you.

simkeith on June 15, 2013 at 5:11 PM

Why, it’s almost like all the official outrage is just theater!

PattyJ on June 15, 2013 at 5:13 PM

Actions speak louder than words. Our government, in general, has said many things…it is high time we stop yammering about what they say and only discuss the things they do…clearly, this meant very little to all those who skipped it.

We will not forget.

Alinsky on June 15, 2013 at 5:13 PM

Disputes between senior intelligence officials and members of Congress over who was told what, when, have been going on for years.

Well, when less than half of you azzholes are going to these, what the hell do you expect?

BallisticBob on June 15, 2013 at 5:19 PM

I guess NSA forgot to bring the campaign checks.

Another Drew on June 15, 2013 at 5:22 PM

Of course, listening to Clapper can cause a loss of IQ points, something that most Senator’s cannot spare.

Another Drew on June 15, 2013 at 5:24 PM

You know it had to be a pretty even split or possibly more Democrats missing for names not to have been named.

Cindy Munford on June 15, 2013

Actually to me it says it was largely party line, with a vast majority being democrats, because if there were a lot of republicans, they simply would have named them… and maybe one democrat back bencher..

Strikingly like the fleebaggers in Wisconsin..

The dems simply are going party line, and suddenly becoming allergic to finding facts. We know most would value party over country, they’ve proved that a hundred times over already. Most street gangs aren’t as tightly disciplined when it comes to loyalty as the democrats are to party.

mark81150 on June 15, 2013 at 5:28 PM

It doesn’t matter…

“Obama’s Snooping Excludes Muslim Mosques…”

Seven Percent Solution on June 15, 2013 at 5:28 PM

Once upon a time……

When an American says that he loves his country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the prairies glistening in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great mountains, and the sea. He means that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath of self-respect. ~Adlai Stevenson

You know, I really miss the good ol’ days.

Solaratov on June 15, 2013 at 5:29 PM

“They have not done a particularly good job in explaining it to the American people,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (Communist-Vt.).

Fixed it for you.

simkeith on June 15, 2013 at 5:11 PM

Yeah.. that makes it a lot more accurate. Sanders has never been shy about the direction he wants to go, certainly more honest than Obama.

mark81150 on June 15, 2013 at 5:31 PM

Disputes between senior intelligence officials and members of Congress over who was told what, when, have been going on for years.

Which is why you take roll, and put the entire thing on C-SPAN – anything that’s classified is just going to end up on the front page of the NYT anyway.

Another Drew on June 15, 2013 at 5:33 PM

And they still haven’t.

And alas, we come to the true crux of why this is in the news. Because they haven’t talked much about it, it sounds bad, is hard to explain without falling into nuanced rhetorical landmines, making it an OPPORTUNITY.

A political opportunity. That’s why no one showed up. Because they recognized that, for the most part, it’s not an activity the government can afford to abandon, and it was only political theater in the first place.

Just like 90% of the other outrages and “deaths of America” of the last four years, and the eight before that.

It actually means nothing, if you got excited, emotionally involved, and passionately all about one side or argument or another, the YOU are the “useful idiot”.

Or at least one of the millions of them, aiding our continuing trajectory right towards where we’ve always been for all of our living memories.

A government of the corporate and special interests, by the corporate and special interests, and for the corporate and special interests.

All that changes is the face, delivery, and letter by their name. But nothing real. Nothing changes. Funny how much Obama is exactly like Bush. Funny how much Reagan’s “amnesty” was exactly like Bush’s attempt and now the gang of eight.

Funny how both sides become exactly what they abhorred, protested against, and fought tooth and nail to “change” as soon as the pitcher’s mound changes hands again.

Funny how many still root root root for the “home team”, just like good little group thinkers and vessels for the “opinions” of those who supplied you with them.

Wake up.

Genuine on June 15, 2013 at 5:35 PM

mark81150 on June 15, 2013 at 5:28 PM

But will we ever know??

Cindy Munford on June 15, 2013 at 5:36 PM

You know, I really miss the good ol’ days.

Solaratov on June 15, 2013 at 5:29 PM

Almost like having a nitemare you can’t wake up from, one where you know disaster is coming, but you can’t stop it.

The media and democrat party did this to us.. with help from certain rinos.

But to me, the doom is more dire than the 70′s when the left was basically demanding we submit to Soviet domination. The air then felt ominous, like something bad was going to happen any second.. then the clouds broke, and we elected Ronald Reagan. The dark clouds went away again..

Now.. it’s like it’s 1978 all over again, the enemies of America are laughing at our buffoon president. The media and left a steady chorus of appeasement, and shut up you America loving hayseeds.. we got this..

But it’s the ominous feeling of the Carter years on steroids..

mark81150 on June 15, 2013 at 5:37 PM

Maybe some didn’t want to listen to more lies.

VorDaj on June 15, 2013 at 5:43 PM

Now, if there had been TV cameras….

d1carter on June 15, 2013 at 5:48 PM

Screw the Congress, they don’t give a rat’s a** about the People. Tar & Feathers, National Mall. High Noon.

clippermiami on June 15, 2013 at 6:02 PM

Maybe some didn’t want to listen to more lies.

VorDaj on June 15, 2013 at 5:43 PM

This.

John the Libertarian on June 15, 2013 at 6:14 PM

Firedemall

Don L on June 15, 2013 at 6:26 PM

Not defending these Senators by any stretch, but I’m so jaded on the administration that it makes me wonder if they didn’t A) schedule this at the last minute and/or B) schedule it when they knew most would be on the way to Reagan National just to embarrass them. Who made the call to The Hill, anyway?

BKeyser on June 15, 2013 at 6:37 PM

Where is this list of senators who attended or did not attend? I want to find out if my senators were in attendance or not. Even the root article from the home had no link to the list of senators who attended and those that did not. Seems to me the article here and there is unfinished until you publish this list of senators who attended and did not attend.

paulsur on June 15, 2013 at 4:47 PM

I have not seen the list yet and would like to know this information.

talkingpoints on June 15, 2013 at 6:49 PM

Y’know they were briefed before. Just cause they are “briefed” doesn’t mean they are told the truth. The NSA already LIED in SWORN TESTIMONY. Man, the BBLs are something.

BoxHead1 on June 15, 2013 at 4:31 PM

I don’t trust them but I know people who would go nuts at your comment. The number of leftys who are fine with it amazes me.

BKeyser on June 15, 2013 at 6:37 PM

You are very smart. Tight? The schedule of those guys is like a fire drill in a VW.

IlikedAUH2O on June 15, 2013 at 7:42 PM

Maybe some didn’t want to listen to more lies.

VorDaj on June 15, 2013 at 5:43 PM

But…but…LEAST UNTRUTHFUL

Solaratov on June 15, 2013 at 7:59 PM

The 52 are trying to figure out how best to shaft the American People with Amnesty and a Police State, both at the same time.

They don’t need the briefing. They approve of the government spying on you.

ajacksonian on June 15, 2013 at 8:23 PM

Turn out the lights, the party’s over. It’s been a good 237 years but we’re done here.

Oh, and yeah, LiB

jnelchef on June 15, 2013 at 8:54 PM

Makes no sense, since Al Qaeda has pretty much co-opted the rebels.

mark81150 on June 15, 2013 at 9:44 PM

I believe P.J. O’Rourke had the solution 30 years ago.
Bomb that silica into a huge mirror. Then send in a bunch of Marines in with Windex and paper towels.

katy the mean old lady on June 15, 2013 at 11:53 PM

None of them want to do their jobs. This was one time they didn’t want to be seen as doing something. Since dear leader doesn’t go to his briefings, why should they.

Kissmygrits on June 16, 2013 at 8:54 AM

That photo of Feinstein should be the official logo of the Democrat Party.

Cybergeezer on June 16, 2013 at 10:20 AM

Shocked to agree with Feinstein on anything as well.

I chalk this up to lack of knowing, as opposed to the Senators who skipped being too well informed. They rarely even read the bills they sign, they have their lawyers do it for them often times.

Freeloader on June 19, 2013 at 4:19 PM

Also Ed – if you find the list of Senators who did attend this meeting, could you pass that along? It currently doesn’t seem to be public information.

Freeloader on June 19, 2013 at 4:27 PM