A few members of the House Intelligence Commitee kept basic information on the NSA's surveillance program from the rest of the House of Representatives, says Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI). On Facebook, Amash posted one of the recently declassified documents on FISA surveillance, noting one passage in a 2011 letter: "We believe that making [an enclosed] document available to all members of Congress, as we did with a similar document in 2009, is an effective way to inform the legislative debate" about reauthorizing the law used for phone surveillance. But Amash says that the House Intelligence Committee, which received the letter, never distributed the document.
Less than two weeks ago, the Obama administration released previously classified documents regarding #NSA's bulk collection programs and indicated that two of these documents had been made available to all Members of Congress prior to the vote on reauthorization of the Patriot Act. I can now confirm that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence did NOT, in fact, make the 2011 document available to Representatives in Congress, meaning that the large class of Representatives elected in 2010 did not receive either of the now declassified documents detailing these programs.
The letter suggested that Congress was aware of FISA's scope, but it was sent specifically to Reps. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), members of the House Intelligence Committee; a separate letter was sent to the Senate's Intelligence Community. It's likely that other members of the committee were given the document, but according to Amash, it never made it outside that small circle. As he says, more veteran Representatives might have seen an earlier letter from 2009 (which was also declassified), but anyone elected in the 2010 cycle would have voted to renew the Patriot Act and, later, the FISA Amendments Act without seeing even the limited information Congress was supposed to have.
Since the revelations about NSA surveillance have come to light, both the White House and some members of Congress have insisted that the programs involved were common knowledge. Amash's statement casts doubt on this, backing up claims that many Congressmen and women had only a vague understanding of American intelligence operations. It also places suspicion on a more unusual suspect: a small group of members in the House of Representatives itself.