In a session with reporters late this morning, Sen. John Cornyn blasted colleagues who knew about changes in the President’s surveillance policy and are now calling for probes on domestic spying by the Bush Administration after the New York Times broke a story, the timing ofwhich Cornyn questions.
Minority Leader Harry Reid who is supporting a congressional hearings and investigations on the President’s actions told media last week after reauthorization of the Patriot Act was rejected, “We killed the Patriot Act.” The Washington Post has confirmed Reid was briefed about the surveillance program a few months ago.
Cornyn said, “Several senators have gotten way out in front of this issue and expressed unequivocal opinions on this surveillance without really knowing what the facts are. Congress suggests it is appropriate that we have oversight hearings to find out what the facts are. A handful of members of bipartisan members of Congress know what the facts are and have been briefed as many as twelve times.”
“It seems to me to be hypocritical to say the least that leaders on a bipartisan basis have been briefed on the surveillance and once the New York Times issues this story on the eve of a vote on cloture in the Patriot Act to mock horror and shock as to what was going on.”
One reporter who claimed a direct line to sources on the Senate Intelligence Committee said only 4 members were briefed and they were contacted on the condition they would not speak of the matter to legal scholars or staff aides.
Cornyn could not verify or deny the reporter’s claims, but said there is no legal prohibition on members who were briefed to discuss the matter with other Senate members. “They have security clearance and are entitled to know this information so that we can do our jobs.”
“I question the timing of the story’s release after a year. In my mind there is no basis for killing the Patriot Act on the basis of this revelation,“ and that, “None of your civil liberties matter much after you are dead.”