Press Releases

Goodlatte, Gowdy, Gohmert Press Intelligence Community on Leaks of Classified Information

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Washington, March 24, 2017 | Beth Breeding (202-225-5431) | comments
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), and Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Vice-Chairman Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) today pressed key intelligence agencies about leaks of classified information and the impact they have on the American people’s trust in vital national security programs.

In a letter to the leaders of the Department of Justice, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Security Agency, and the Central Intelligence Agency, Chairman Goodlatte, Subcommittee Chairman Gowdy, and Subcommittee Vice-Chairman Gohmert express deep concern about leaks of classified information from unnamed sources to the media and the continuous repercussions of prior unauthorized and damaging disclosures about national security programs. These leaks are especially damaging as the House Judiciary Committee seeks to reauthorize and reform FISA Section 702 later this year. This program, which targets the communications of non-U.S. persons outside of the United States in order to protect national security, reportedly encompasses more than a quarter of all NSA surveillance and has been used on multiple occasions to detect and prevent horrific terrorist plots against our country.

All leaks of classified information have the potential to erode the American people’s trust in their government’s ability to protect both the security of our country and privacy of U.S. persons. Chairman Goodlatte, Subcommittee Chairman Gowdy, and Subcommittee Vice Chairman Gohmert call on the intelligence community to openly dispel any false accusations of widespread illegal surveillance. Moreover, it is vital for the intelligence community to publicly describe the value of FISA Section 702 in thwarting terrorist plots. Finally, the members request a briefing on efforts made by the agencies to weed out any leakers of classified information and bring them to justice.

Below is the text of the letter. The signed letter can be found here.

March 24, 2017

Dear Attorney General Sessions, Director Coats, Director Comey, Admiral Rogers and Director Pompeo:

The American people’s trust in the intelligence community and the surveillance programs authorized by law is vital to our national security. These programs prevent terrorist attacks and save American lives.

The unlawful dissemination of classified information undercuts the integrity of these programs and jeopardizes their continued existence. This and other unauthorized and felonious disclosures – past and present – are increasingly casting a pall over not only our country’s intelligence apparatus but also the American people’s trust in the efficacy and integrity of the intelligence community and the programs utilized.

While the House and Senate Intelligence Committees do conduct oversight of the intelligence community, the House and Senate Judiciary Committees have primary oversight of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the important national security statute at the center of many of the recent allegations. As you know, the most important foreign intelligence tool in our nation’s anti-terrorism arsenal, Section 702 of FISA (“Section 702”), is scheduled to expire on December 31, 2017. The fact is Section 702 authorizes surveillance that reportedly encompasses more than a quarter of all NSA surveillance, and it has been used on multiple occasions to detect and prevent potentially calamitous terrorist plots against our country. Because of the aforementioned unauthorized disclosures, many Members of Congress are distrustful of these capabilities and fear the consequences if wrongdoers within the government continue to disseminate information feloniously.

Our Committee seeks several results with this letter. First, we ask you to openly dispel, if inaccurate or false, accusations of widespread illegal surveillance. Second, we encourage you to publicly describe the value of Section 702 in thwarting terrorist plots. Members of Congress and the public need to fully understand the utility of the program as well as the procedures in place to ensure Section 702 operates within the confines of the law and the Constitution. Finally, we ask you brief us on any efforts made by your agencies to identify those who feloniously disseminate classified or otherwise legally protected information and bring them to justice. “Unnamed government sources” leaking confidential information, whether the information is accurate or not, is detrimental to our national security and cannot be tolerated. Congress, as the People’s representative body, has the responsibility to ensure proper measures are being taken to prevent any unauthorized disclosures of classified information.

Thank you for your attention to these important matters.

Sincerely,

Bob Goodlatte
Chairman
House Judiciary Committee

Trey Gowdy
Chairman
Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, & Investigations

Louie Gohmert
Vice-Chairman
Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, & Investigations
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