A new kind of bicameral legislature

As another byproduct of the Edward Snowden revelations, it has become clear that the real legislative division in the US is not between the House of Representatives and the Senate but between an Insider Congress and an Outsider Congress.

The defense of the Obama administration to the revelations about widespread NSA surveillance is that they have ‘fully informed’ members of Congress, and since these members are supposed to be representatives of the people, then everything is fine. But as this article from Glenn Greenwald points out, there seems to be two Congresses. There is an inner coterie of people who are in the leadership and who get secret briefings and support the government’s programs and its secrecy, and there are the rest who are stonewalled when they ask for information, and yet are expected to vote on issues without knowing what is going on.

What is interesting is that members of the outsider Congress from both parties are now passing their correspondence with the administration to Greenwald to show their frustration. As he says:

It has been widely noted that the supremely rubber-stamping FISA court constitutes NSA “oversight” in name only, and that the Intelligence Committees are captured by the agency and constrained to act even if they were inclined to. Whatever else is true, members of Congress in general clearly know next to nothing about the NSA and the FISA court beyond what they read in the media, and those who try to rectify that are being actively blocked from finding out.

In an interview with Martha Raddatz of ABC News, Greenwald talks about how even the rubber stamp FISA court issued a ruling saying that the expansive reach of the data mining programs of the NSA were illegal and unconstitutional but the government refuses to release that ruling even though the court itself said that it had no objections to it being made public.

It really is an extraordinary state of affairs.


  1. Nick Gotts says

    It’s beginning to look as though Snowden’s revelations are really threatening the political status quo in the USA, with both main parties split on how to react. Little sign yet of anything similar in the UK – our politicians are even more thoroughly subservient to the security state than yours, it seems.

  2. colnago80 says

    I believe the difference is that Great Britain has an Official Secrets Act which the US does not.

  3. colnago80 says

    I would add that the Obama Administration is trying their best to turn the Patriot Act into an official secrets act.

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