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LAT: What the CIA hid from Congress

Author: Jane Harman
July 25, 2009

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In this opinion piece, Congresswoman Jane Harman writes the Bush administration concealed crucial information about its surveillance programs from congressional intelligence committees.

As ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee from 2003 to 2006, I was part of the so-called Gang of Eight -- a group made up of the House and Senate leaders plus the chairs and ranking members of the two chambers' intelligence committees that is required by law to be briefed on the CIA's "covert" action programs.

Those briefings were conducted roughly quarterly at the White House -- either in the vice president's office or the Situation Room. Most of the ones I attended concerned a code-named program now known as the Terrorist Surveillance Program. Respectful of the double oath I signed to protect highly classified material, I did not take notes or speak to anyone about the meetings. However, comments by Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency and the CIA, that the Gang of Eight was "fully" briefed on the TSP prompt me to disclose, for the first time, what they were like.

In virtually every meeting, Hayden would present PowerPoint "slides," walking us through the operational details of the TSP. The program has since been described, in part, as one that intercepted communications to and from the U.S. in an effort to uncover terrorist networks and prevent or disrupt attacks. We were told that the program was the centerpiece of our counter-terrorism efforts, legal and yielding impressive results.

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