Tuesday, December 20, 2005
STRANGELOVLEAND Scott McClellan gives Stanley Kubrick, Peter George and Terry Southern a run for their money:
Q Congress defines oversight as "the authority to conduct inquiries or investigations, to have access to records or materials, or to issue subpoenas or testimony from the executive." Which of these powers were members of Congress granted with regard to the NSA surveillance program?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as you just pointed out, Congress is an independent branch of government, and they're elected by their constituents. We briefed and informed members of Congress about this program going back to 2001; more than a dozen times since then we've briefed members of Congress --
Q But briefing isn't power to investigate or issue subpoenas to ask questions. And I'm asking you, which of the powers of oversight were they granted?
MR. McCLELLAN: Congress is an independent branch of government. That's what I just pointed out, Jessica.
Q Which has the right to check the functions of the executive. And these are --
MR. McCLELLAN: They have an oversight role, that's right.
Q Okay, so in what way --
MR. McCLELLAN: That's why we thought it was important to brief members of Congress about this vital tool that we're using to save lives and to protect the American people, and why we talked to them about how it is limited in nature and limited in scope.
Q But as you know, members of Congress who were briefed said that they were informed -- yes, briefed, but given absolutely no recourse to formally object, to push back and say, this is not acceptable.
MR. McCLELLAN: They're an independent branch of government.
Q So in what way were they given oversight?
MR. McCLELLAN: They were briefed. And we believe it's important to brief members of Congress, the relevant leaders --
Q Would you also say they were given full oversight?
MR. McCLELLAN: They're an independent branch of government. Yes, they have --
Q Were they given oversight?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, they have oversight roles to play.
Q So they have oversight. So, in what way could they have acted on that oversight?
MR. McCLELLAN: You should ask members of Congress that question.