[publish]. If he objects, we can refer it for a vote of the full House,” a House Intelligence Committee Republican source said late last week.
Gravel said Republicans should not back down if they meet resistance from administration officials.
“For the Congress to be a bunch of wimps and cowards and defer to the executive branch because they don’t want to take any responsibility is the height of cowardice,” he said.
In June 1971, Gravel convened a subcommittee he chaired and released thousands of pages of the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record, ensuring they would remain public as the Nixon administration challenged in court the right to report on the leaked document.
“All this brouhaha between the executive and the legislative is ridiculous. It’s all because these people don’t understand their responsibility under the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause,” Gravel said. “There is no legal risk on their part for releasing information they feel the public should know. No risk. Period.”
Gravel won the 1972 Supreme Court case Gravel v. U.S., with justices finding the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause immunized not only his release of the classified records, but also covered the participation of his staff.
The memo on alleged FISA abuse has resulted in notable party unity in the House, where debates on surveillance often are characterized by bipartisan pushes for privacy protections against a bipartisan consensus in favor of the status quo among leadership.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., a longtime FISA reform advocate, told the Examiner last week she read the short memo and felt it should not be released. She said it “was crafted in a way that would create a misimpression based on classified information that I’ve reviewed long ago and cites sources that are highly classified.”
Lofgren said release would set up a secondary fight for release of the highly classified underpinnings.
“I can’t talk about this memo, but I think — critical as I’ve been about a lack of a warrant requirement [for domestic communications under FISA] — there still are things that shouldn’t be published. We have spies; they have spies. To think every single thing that has been done by intelligence agencies should be published, I think, is incorrect,” she said.
On the Republican side, there’s been a groundswell of support for release among rank-and-file members, many of whom shared their demands for release under the social media hashtag #ReleasetheMemo last week.
Members of the House are allowed to read the memo, but senators, including those on the Senate Intelligence Committee, have complained about not having access. House members who read the memo must do so in a secure room supervised by committee staff.
Although Lofgren said “it was not a long memo,” she questioned how a member of Congress would sneak a copy out of the secure reading room.
Gravel said even if lawmakers are guarded in the reading room, they can easily find a way to sneak a copy into a press release or official proceeding.
“Obviously then they have to be intelligent enough to get a copy of the document,” he said. “This is ridiculous, the Congress does leak like a sieve and if a person is intelligent and intent on releasing this information, it’s not that difficult. They just pretend it is to cover their backsides.”
by Steven Nelson