Congressman: Department of Justice Tapped Congressional Rooms as Well as Reporters’ Offices

Has the Obama Department of Justice Violated the Separation of Powers?

California Congressman  Devin Nunes (R-CA) says that the Department Of Justice tapped phones in the rooms where Congress members speak informally and off the record, eat, sleep and socialize when they’re not on the floor of the House of Representatives or in their individual offices.

These rooms are known as “cloak rooms”, which are the spaces in which a lot of informal conversations occur … both between Congress members, and Congress members and reporters.

Congressman Nunes told Hugh Hewitt:

[Congressman  Nunes]:  I don’t think people are focusing on the right thing when they talk about going after the AP reporters. The big problem that I see is that they actually tapped right where I’m sitting right now, the Cloak Room.

[Interviewer]: Wait a minute, this is news to me.

Congressman  Nunes:  The Cloak Room in the House of Representatives.

[Interviewer]: I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Congressman  Nunes: So when they went after the AP reporters, right? Went after all of their phone records, they went after the phone records, including right up here in the House Gallery, right up from where I’m sitting right now. So you have a real separation of powers issue that did this really rise to the level that you would have to get phone records that would, that would most likely include members of Congress ….

Now that is a separation of powers issue here ….

Liberals rightfully lambasted the Bush administration for considering doing something similar.  As Mother Jones reported in 2009:

James Risen and Eric Lichtblau report in the New York Times today that the NSA may have exceeded the wiretapping authority it was given by Congress in 2008.


But then there’s this buried in the middle of the story, which isn’t vague at all:

New details are also emerging about earlier domestic surveillance activities, including the agency’s attempt to wiretap a congressman without court approval on an overseas trip, according to interviews with current and former intelligence officials.

….The agency believed that the congressman, whose identity could not be determined, was in contact as part of a congressional delegation to the Middle East in 2005 or 2006 with an extremist who had possible terrorist ties and was already under surveillance, the official said. The agency then sought to eavesdrop on the congressman’s conversations to gather more intelligence, the official said.

The official said the plan was ultimately blocked because of concerns from some officials in the intelligence community about the idea of using the N.S.A., without court oversight, to spy on a member of Congress.

Jesus.  If a member of Congress isn’t a “United States person” protected from warrantless surveillance by every version of FISA that’s ever been on the books, who is?  Shouldn’t this have set off alarm bells at every possible level at NSA, rather than merely being “ultimately blocked” because “some” officials had “concerns” about it?

But – even though top expert say that Obama is trampling on separation of powers and Constitutional liberties more than Bush or Nixon – many Democrats are still hypnotized by what liberal writer Glenn Greenwald calls the “cult of personality“.

Update:  Nunes’ director of communications – Jack Lagner – has issued a clarification:

What Rep. Nunes meant by “tapped” was that the DOJ seized the phone records, as has been widely reported. There was a little confusion between him and the host during the conversation: He did not mean to refer to phone records of the cloakroom itself, but of the Capitol. This refers to the phone records for the AP from  the House press gallery, which the DOJ admitted to looking at. He was explaining that if those phone records were seized, they would reveal a lot of conversations between the press and members of Congress, since reporters often speak to Members from the press gallery phones. The notion of the DOJ looking at phone records from the Capitol of conversations between Members of Congress and reporters is something that concerns Rep. Nunes, bringing up issues related to the separation of powers.

Nunes’ point still stands, though. The Department of Justice collection of phone records of conversations between Congress members and reporters violates the principal of separation of powers.

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  • Johnny

    ‘Member in the history books how the Pinkertons were clearly a bad thing? The AP is a great patriot, they aren’t going to do a Wikileaks, for example. So the dog and pony show could be a huge display of elite paranoia since they largely control what is published to begin with, or the ebb and flow of competing interests within the ruling class, and nothing works better to get the public’s blood up than a juicy scandal.

  • wunsacon

    Hey, GW. In case you need a chuckle:

  • wunsacon

    >> collection of phone records of conversations between Congress members
    and reporters violates the principal of separation of powers

    I have to imagine that there would be scenarios where you’d want to collect this. But, I have my doubts that there was sufficient cause.

    I’d like to summarize our dilemma by stating our goals and our choices thusly in bumper-sticker format:
    —– Empire. Safety. Civil rights. Choose two. —–

  • HS

    The fact that we’re seeing any of this in the MSM means that there is something far more sinister happening that we need to be distracted from. After all, remember how little of Fast & Furious the MSM reported until the NRA shamed them into it.

    • You’re right, of course. Yesterday it was signed into law that the US Armed Forces can now legally police the American public. This is the REAL news. The rest of this is for entertainment only. How are you enjoying the show?

      • wendy davis

        link, please?

      • HS

        Not so much. They also put legislation to replace hourly workers paid overtime with comp time. Nice, huh?

  • Guest

    “NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to turn to a clip from another whistleblower, William Binney, formerly of the National Security Agency, where he spent nearly 40 years, but retired about a month after September 11th, 2001, due to concerns over unchecked domestic surveillance.

    WILLIAM BINNEY: After 9/11, all the wraps came off for NSA, and they decided to—between the (Bush) White House and NSA and CIA, they decided to eliminate the protections on U.S. citizens and collect on domestically. So they started collecting from a commercial—the one commercial company that I know of that participated provided over 300—probably, on the average, about 320 million records of communication of a U.S. citizen to a U.S. citizen inside this country.

    AMY GOODMAN: What company?

    WILLIAM BINNEY: AT&T. It was long-distance communications. So they were providing billing data. At that point, I knew I could not stay, because it was a direct violation of the constitutional rights of everybody in the country. Plus it violated the pen register law and Stored Communications Act, the Electronic Privacy Act, the intelligence acts of 1947 and 1978. I mean, it was just this whole series of—plus all the laws covering federal communications governing telecoms. I mean, all those laws were being violated, including the Constitution. And that was a decision made that wasn’t going to be reversed, so I could not stay there. I had to leave.”

    “JUAN GONZALEZ: William Binney, what about the companies that are approached by the government to participate or facilitate the surveillance? Your sense of the degree of opposition that they’re mounting, if at all? And also, has there been any kind of qualitative change since the Obama administration came in versus what the Bush administration was practicing?

    WILLIAM BINNEY: Well, first of all, I don’t think any of them opposed it in any way. I mean, they were approached to saying, “You’ll be patriotic if you support us.” So I think they saluted and said, “Yes, sir,” and supported them, because they were told it was legal, too. And then, of course, they had to be given retroactive immunity for the crimes they were committing. So—

    JUAN GONZALEZ: Approved by President Obama.

    WILLIAM BINNEY: And President Bush, yeah. It started with Bush, yeah.

    JUAN GONZALEZ: And the differences in the administrations?

    WILLIAM BINNEY: Actually, I think the surveillance has increased. In fact, I would suggest that they’ve assembled on the order of 20 trillion transactions about U.S. citizens with other U.S. citizens.

    AMY GOODMAN: How many?

    WILLIAM BINNEY: Twenty trillion.

    AMY GOODMAN: And you’re saying that this surveillance has increased? Not only the—


    AMY GOODMAN: —targeting of whistleblowers, like your colleagues, like people like Tom Drake, who are actually indicted under the Obama administration—


    AMY GOODMAN: —more times—the number of people who have been indicted are more than all presidents combined in the past.

    WILLIAM BINNEY: Right. And I think it’s to silence what’s going on. But the point is, the data that’s being assembled is about everybody. And from that data, then they can target anyone they want.”

    “…the point is, the data that’s being assembled is about everybody. And from that data, then they can target anyone they want,” (Binney) including Congress, the Judiciary, and the President.

    • GenEarly

      Hey! Sen Di Fi said it’s all legal because Congress knows all about it, the Executive has strenuous controls and the FISA courts have approved. So all 3 branches of the Feral Gov’t agree! What’s left to say? Larry, Moe, and Curly agree!

  • The new normal – American type of fascism – murder, torture, criminalize any opposition.

    Well United Stupids that will keep you really safe!

  • Washington76

    Barack Obama The Case for Impeachment Published on May 15, 2013

    Just how much criminal activity does a president have to be involved in before impeachment becomes a serious possibility?

    • accretiondisc

      At least we agree on this. But it will be difficult because despite the AP phone record deal, I am not convinced the mainstream media has stopped carrying his water.

      • jimbo

        more like carrying his books, if you under stand what that means?

        • accretiondisc

          Sorry I don’t UNDERSTAND (one word). Far as I know, Obama can only read a teleprompter. Anyway, I think he carries Michelle’s books (and probably eats the peanuts out of her backside).

  • gungho jon

    I understand everyone wants a document that is good, one that “guarantees” all our “rights,” but people come on? How is this possible if you let someone interpret that document, and those people who interpret it, have access to law making power, and a powerful media that can interpret those interpretations for you? Get off your asses people and USE your minds. The state can take the purchasing power but it cannot take your minds, especially if you use them to assert your own rights!!!
    The Practice Perspective!

  • gungho jon

    I understand everyone wants a document that is good, one that “guarantees” all our “rights,” but people come on? How is this possible if you let someone interpret that document, and those people who interpret it, have access to law making power, and a powerful media that can interpret those interpretations for you? Get off your asses people and USE your minds. The state can take the purchasing power but it cannot take your minds, especially if you use them to assert your own rights!!!
    The Practice Perspective!

    • john o.

      gungho jon,

      well said, but unfortunately 61 years on earth tells me that, in fact, “the state” can take people’s minds…not that your push in the other direction is not welcome…

  • Janet Innes-Kirkwood

    Center for Media and Democracy’s report by Beau Hodai “Dissent or Terror, How the Nation’s Counter Terrorism Apparatus, in Partnership with Corporate America” Turned on Occupy Wall Street

    So not only do we have to worry about the government but also the private goons. Then again some people might be put at risk because everybody is spying on everybody and who knows what happens to all the information some of it made up because we know everybody can get it including the pandas with sunglasses and there are places for it to intercepted. This is not about Obama it is about the surveillance state and insanity. The truth is only a weapon of mass destruction when the reality already is.

    • GenEarly

      Innes-Kirkwood, I just love those hyphenated feminazi names, but I diverge. It seems Madame is worried but not that worried that her selection of the O has any bearing on present developments.
      The evil corporations and banksters that supported the O are villains, but O was just not aware of Benghazi, IRS, NSA, ATF gunrunning, after all as consigliore Axelrod said the Feral Gov’t is just too big for one man to know anything. Not to fret you can rectify this surveillance in 2016 by voting for Hillary ! LOL!

      • Janet Innes-Kirkwood

        Hmmm. ad hominem attacks I’m sure is a demonstration of great intellect and argument style, given your terminology and line of attack, maybe party affiliation, but I can assure you I think in fact the O administration should be challenged in both the court of public attention and in the court of law. I think the NSA, FBI, CIA and the private/public partnership should be examined. My list of outrage might be different than yours but related I’m sure. I think most of the elite are disappointing and flawed. I think the Clintons also have part of the blame for this mess. So as to who I would support in 2016… As for all the spying and suppressing the press, and dossier building and excessive control and over-emotional appeals I think should be severely reined in.

        • GenEarly

          I have no party affiliation ,a pox on both their houses. I do apologize, somewhat, I’m usually in an attack mode on Socialist Progressives and despise Rino’s. I think if we lose The Constitution we lose the country, and that a constitutional republic protects everyone, while a democracy is a tyranny of the majority.
          I can only assume you might be a classical liberal, which isn’t all bad as I were one in younger years. But you did vote for Obam didn’t you?

          • Janet Innes-Kirkwood

            I am one of those slippery lefties, probably often on your target list, but just when you got them pegged they keep to their principles. I am not anybody’s booster (unless I want to be). I believe in a Constitutional democracy. I believe the minority and unfavored views must also be fully protected. One look at the elite and … One good look around at the masses – and yikes….

          • GenEarly

            If you haven’t already, learn how to exercise Your 2nd amendment rights. A saying I just heard…. “Just because the shit hasn’t hit you in the face, doesn’t mean it hasn’t hit the fan”. Train with that 2nd amendment like your life depends on it, because it does. Wish you well.

          • Janet Innes-Kirkwood

            No it is better to keep the faith. I’m quite certain I have had a pie or two lately but I’m sticking to peace, love, and respect. You know those lefty principles.

  • GenEarly

    I could care less about congress having their communications listened to. These critters could care less about me and the feeling is mutual. Besides if they weren’t such weenies, they could cut the funding of the offending agency. I’m sure all misunderstandings will be worked out in closed session behind doors and away from prying eyes.