Last week, we thought it was ridiculous enough that the DoD (of which the NSA is a key part) had reminded all staff that they were not allowed to look at any of the leaked NSA documents, even if they came across them in the press. If they spotted any, they had to alert various security officials and delete what they saw "by holding down the SHIFT key while pressing the DELETE key for Windows-based systems and clearing of the internet browser cache." As we noted at the time, pretending these documents aren't public does not make much sense, and suggests a government agency that does not want to live in reality.
Now we can add Congress to that list as well. Senate staffers have now been told not to look at the leaked documents, and similarly that they need to "contact the Office of Senate Security for assistance" if they happened across any of the documents accidentally. Once again, this is insane because it means Congress should deny reality and pretend to live with its collective head in the sand -- which is no way to govern.
However, the much bigger deal is that if this were actually obeyed (and it's not), this would effectively hinder Congress's required duty of oversight of the NSA to prevent abuse. If the very Congress that's supposed to monitor the NSA's practices, and which has already been directly lied to by the intelligence community is now being told that it can't even look at the leaks to understand what's going on, how the hell are they supposed to do their oversight job?
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Via Chuck Sherwood, Senior Associate, TeleDimensions, Inc