Last week, President Barack Obama attempted to soften the impact of revelations that the National Security Agency is spying on Americans by collecting massive amounts of metadata from private communications companies by claiming that every member of Congress knew it was going on.
“Now, the programs that have been discussed over the last couple days in the press are secret in the sense that they’re classified, but they’re not secret in the sense that when it comes to telephone calls, every member of Congress has been briefed on this program,” Obama said.
Members of Congress promptly refuted the President’s claim.
There was Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who said of the NSA spying, “I had no idea.”
And Representative Tim Griffen (R-Ark.) said the President was mistaken via Twitter.
— Rep. Tim Griffin (@RepTimGriffin) June 7, 2013
POLITICO, following Obama’s claim, published a piece revealing that several other lawmakers — the list continues to grow — have publicly said they were never briefed about the NSA spying. A list of those lawmakers includes: Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Representative Billy Long (R-La.).
Public announcements from lawmakers that they were not indeed briefed on the spying programs elicited a response from the Obama Administration on Monday: Oh, yeah; many rank-and-file lawmakers were actually not briefed, but they probably could have dug up the classified information if they had really tried to.
Or if you prefer, here’s White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s version of the backtrack:
And, to save face, all House members will reportedly be briefed on the government’s spy tactics on Tuesday.