House Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on NSA spying programs in secret.
Intercept reported today that The House Judiciary Committee will hold hearings next week on two NSA spying programs exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, who is currently hidden in Russia.
The focus of the hearings will be on the federal government’s “PRISM” and “Upstream” programs – each have been designed to target and spy on foreigners.
In an interesting turn of events, the hearings will be concealed from the general public despite 26 government accountability groups writing a strongly worded letter to committee leaders on Wednesday urging them to reveal the hearings to the public.
Congress will reportedly debate over whether to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008.
Kicking off that debate with a closed hearing sets the wrong tone, groups including openthegovernment.org and the ACLU wrote in their letter. “It continues the excessive secrecy that has contributed to the surveillance abuses we have seen in recent years and to their adverse effects upon both our civil liberties and economic growth.” Source
Privacy advocate Rep. Zoe Lofgren called for holding an open hearing as opposed to debating on civil liberties under a cloak of secrecy: “Reports indicate that FISA Section 702 authority has been used by the NSA to search Americans’ photographs, emails and other communications without warrant or probable cause,” she said in an emailed statement to The Intercept.
“The House has twice overwhelmingly voted to close the 702 loophole. During markup last year, Chairman Goodlatte indicated his intent to deal with these problems before the 702 unset date forces Congress to act hastily. While it is important to address some questions in a classified setting, open hearings on the aspects of 702 surveillance that are not classified are essential. I hope the committee will hold a public hearing in the coming weeks.”
The closed hearings will deprive the general public and members of congress of important information on warrantless surveillance conducted under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky told The Intercept that closed committee sessions along with “insufficient congressional oversight” have contributed to the “evolution of our unconstitutional surveillance state.”
He also said that moving forward, it’s “imperative” that congress hold open hearings in regards to civil liberties and the reformation of Section 702.