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On 12/9/21 Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez(D-NY) introduced an amendment(Amendment 148 to H.R. 5314–Protect Our Democracy Act), that would have restored the oversight powers Congress always intended the Government Accountability Office(GAO) to have, including over our intelligence agencies. Our intelligence agencies, as everyone knows, are notoriously impervious to any Congressional oversight, and often hide behind a vague 1988 Department of Justice opinion to justify their need for secrecy. Rep Ocasio-Cortez’s amendment would have taken away that cover, ensuring much-needed transparency from our intelligence agencies. Surprisingly, 23 Centrist Democrats voted with House Republicans to kill her amendment.
As Rep Ocasio-Cortez correctly pointed out on the House floor, given the kinds of abuses we’ve witnessed during Trump’s presidency, it is only prudent that we restore GAO’s oversight powers over all federal agencies, including our intelligence agencies. Any reasonable person would agree, that it is foolhardy to assume that former President Trump abused all other federal agencies for his selfish political interests, except our intelligence apparatus, the easiest ones to abuse given the secrecy with which they are allowed to operate.
.@USGAO has the authority to conduct oversight of all federal agencies. However, most U.S. intelligence agencies don’t fully cooperate.— Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@RepAOC) December 9, 2021
Today, we introduced an amendment to put that to an end. GAO should be able to fulfill its mission of rooting out waste, fraud and abuse. pic.twitter.com/7lOl9E3Zwb
Rep Ocasio-Cortez said on the House floor: “Since it’s creation in 1921, the Government Accountability Office(GAO) has had the purview to conduct oversight of all federal agencies with the goal of reducing waste, fraud and abuse, and holding accountable bad actors. However and unfortunately, most of our intelligence agencies today are not fully cooperative with the GAO, pointing to an outdated and vague 1988 Department of Justice opinion. Our amendment would allow the GAO to act as a check on this behavior, not creating new powers, but restoring the power Congress always intended the GAO to have. This amendment is welcomed by many in the intelligence community, who want to protect their important work and resources from abuse, particularly after the last presidency we just endured. We drafted this amendment in partnership with the community and I’m proud to have the support of Representative Adam Schiff who serves as the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. In fact many of my colleagues have already taken a stand in support of this legislation because in 2010, the House passed a virtually identical amendment.”
The amendment failed with a final tally of 233 nays, 196 yeas, with 4 members not voting. Among the 233 nays were 23 Centrist Democrats who Yours Truly is compelled to name. The nay Dems included Reps Cynthia Axne(IA), Cheri Bustos(IL), Matt Cartwright(PA), Angie Craig(MN), Antonio Delgado(NY), Val Demings(FL), Jared Golden(ME), Josh Gottheimer(NJ), Chrissy Houlahan(PA), Conor Lamb(PA), Susie Lee(NV), Elaine Luria(VA), Tom O’Halleran(AZ), Chris Pappas(NH), Kurt Schrader(OR), Kim Schrier(WA), Terri Sewell(AL), Mikie Sherrill(NJ), Abigail Spanberger(VA), David Trone(MD), Filemon Vela(TX), Jennifer Wexton(VA), Susan Wild(PA).
Ever since the Patriot Act was enacted after the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001, there have been growing calls from civil libertarians and others, for there to be some checks on the almost absolute powers we granted our intelligence agencies after the 9/11 attacks. The reasoning behind this is pretty simple–power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Fast forward to the Trump administration and the abuses we witnessed occurring across all federal agencies–(DOJ being used for the Big Lie, Military on Black Lives Matter protesters in DC, numerous abuses of DHS, “failure” by our intel agencies to anticipate Jan 6th insurrection)– and the need to look into our intel agencies becomes an absolute necessity. It’s against this backdrop that Rep Ocasio-Cortez, with the support of many in the intel community, are pushing for more transparency. One would assume given these set of circumstances, that more oversight would be a no-brainer for Democrats, but apparently not.
Concerns about possible abuses of our intel agencies run the gamut, from the mundane warrantless snooping of our electronic communications (emails, texts, voicemails, etc), to much more serious allegations that if proven, constitute serious violations of our commitments under the United Nations Conventions Against Torture(CAT). These include allegations of 24/7 organized stalking, non-consensual for-profit human experimentation on people entered on terrorism watchlists by weapons manufacturers and others in Big Tech(remote neuromonitoring), militarized attacks on civilians(usually watchlisted) with directed energy weapons, manufactured terrorism cases, etc. These are serious human rights violations that can only come to light through proper oversight. It also bears pointing out that similar egregious abuses have in the past been attributed to our intel agencies, a recent good example being the non-consensual experimentation on U.S. civilians using radiation. President Clinton in 1995, did the just and moral thing by not only exposing this inhumane conduct, but also making whole the surviving victims. The same can be done today.
Is this happening again? Or are PRIVATE military corporations doing this now unbeknown to most in Washington? This was 1995. ??— Rox… ✍? (@2020eScribbles) December 5, 2021
VIDEO: Pres. Clinton’s Remarks on Human Radiation Experiments (1995) https://t.co/fVLiUEjAXm via @YouTube
Bottom line folks, Rep Ocasio-Cortez deserves a lot of praise for pushing for reform on a topic most politicians, and quite frankly the mainstream media, have been terrified to venture into. One only hopes that she musters the courage to push on with it, despite the recent setback on the House floor. Simply put, time has come for our intel agencies to be subjected to some real oversight.
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