EXCLUSIVE: CRS Report That Concludes The Administration Broke the Law

Think Progress has obtained a copy of the Congressional Research Service [CRS] report that concludes “the Bush administration’s limited briefings for Congress on the National Security Agency’s domestic eavesdropping without warrants are ‘inconsistent with the law.’” You can read it here.

Here’s the key point. Right-wing pundits point to a provision in the law that says disclosure should show “due regard for the protection from unauthorized disclosure of classified information relating to sensitive intelligence sources and methods or other exceptionally sensitive matters.” The right thinks that means disclosure is optional.

But an analysis of the statute and its legislative history by CRS shows that, while that provision might allow the administration, in very rare circumstances, to exclude certain sensitive aspects of an intelligence program, it doesn’t allow them to hide the existence of an entire program from any member of the committee:

Congress has recognized such a necessity and stated its intent that the executive branch, in extremely rare circumstances, may need “…to preserve essential secrecy..” and thus may decide “…not to impart certain sensitive aspects of operations or collection programs to the oversight committees in order to protect extremely sensitive intelligence sources and methods…” In acknowledging this narrow need, however, Congress did not explicitly recognize, in statute or report language, the executive branch’s right to withhold from the intelligence committees information about the existence of the intelligence operations and collection programs, but rather only its authority to hold back information pertaining to certain sensitive aspects of such operations and programs.


Facts are stubborn things.