On Friday morning, President Barack Obama defended his administration’s massive telephone records surveillance programs by explaining that “every member of Congress has been briefed on this program.”
There’s only one problem: both Republican and Democrat Congresspeople say that isn’t true. On Friday afternoon, the press office for Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), one of the authors of the Patriot Act, tweeted, “Obama’s claim that ‘every Member of Congress’ was briefed is FALSE.”
It wasn’t just Sensenbrenner. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said that only certain members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees had been told about the program, and he only knew about it because he received “special permission” to be briefed after hearing about it through the grapevine. “I knew about the program,” he said on MSNBC, “because I specifically sought it out. It’s not something that’s briefed outside the Intelligence Committee.” Merkley added that the administration had ignored the law. “Clearly the administration has not followed what an ordinary person would consider to be the standard of the law here,” he said.
Merkely summed up: “when the president says all members of Congress were briefed … well, I think a very small number of Senators in Congress had full details on these programs.”
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said he only knew about the program after asking for a briefing under “classified circumstances.” The “average member,” he said, had no access to this information. “They don’t receive this kind of briefing.”
Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said they had not been briefed on the phone surveillance program, either. “Not quite!” Rep. Billy Long (R-LA) tweeted after hearing about Obama’s claim.
Obama’s claim was not a slip of the tongue. On Friday, Obama’s White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “In December of 2009 and in February of 2011, the Department of Justice and the intelligence community provided a document to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to be made available to all members of the House and Senate, describing the classified uses of Section 215 in detail.”
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).