Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

News So what exactly was discussed during the House of Reps secret session?

  1. Aug 1, 2008 #1
    For only the 6th time in 180+ years, the House of Reps held a secret session in March of this year. In case you missed it:

    You will find all sorts of theories on out there on what was discussed, however, it is mostly likely that the secret session was about FISA, which is an act of Congress that would pretty much grant immunity to communications companies to spy on you. A secret session to talk about a spying bill? Is this still the United States of America or is this becoming 1984? Democracy is dying everyday in the US.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 1, 2008 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    It's a secret. :tongue: I don't see what the problem is; would you prefer that the house of representatives be disallowed from ever discussing issues involving classified information?

    I challenge you to justify your implication and assertion, or withdraw them.

    And I challenge this assertion as well. Citation, please.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2008
  4. Aug 1, 2008 #3


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    *sigh* I really dislike this sort of exaggerative sensationalism*. And to boot, he refused to represent the interests of his state in the discussion. I almost wish I lived in Ohio so I could vote against him next election. :grumpy:

    *: This is opinion
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2008
  5. Aug 1, 2008 #4
    "Those willing to give up freedom for security should have neither"- Benjamin Franklin

    Yeah, I guess it is OK when our elected PUBLIC officials hold secret meetings on trying to pass legislation about a pretty large invasion into our privacy.

    I'll just let the history of the US do that itself

    -REX 84
    -Warrantless wiretappings
    -Patriot Act

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2008/07/20080710-2.html [Broken]


    (one of those protections being immunity to lawsuits)


    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  6. Aug 1, 2008 #5
    I don't think that the secret house session wouldn't be much more than about FISA because they debated the nuances of a proposed secret session for an hour because the Republicans say they have some valuable and secret information about a secret wiretapping program that has been debated in Congress.

    I mean, they probably wouldn't hold a secret session if they didn't have information that could cause mass panic in the public, or about the whereabouts of people like bin laden, etc.etc.
  7. Aug 1, 2008 #6


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I notice that, despite quoting my question, you failed to answer it. The only apparent alternative to holding a secret meeting to receive and discuss the topic are to forbid our elected representatives from holding any discussion about this information (or even from being informed!), or to cause serious damage national security1 by discussing the information in public. Neither of these seem attractive alternatives.... I can't take your opinion seriously if you show no evidence of having seriously considered its ramifications.

    Facts do not speak for themselves. If you want to make an argument, then you actually have to make it. To wit, the most direct inference one could make using your laundry list is exactly the opposite of what you assert -- similar2 things have occurred, and yet we are still living in the democratic republic called the United States, rather than an Orwellian regime.

    The citations you provide do not support your assertion. Instead, they are saying that it grants immunity from being sued after complying with a government directive compelling the provider to provide data to an acquisition program. ref

    1: This is the minimum criterion for information to be classified secret.
    2: I'm assuming that you were considering these four points to be similar to the issue at hand
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2008
  8. Aug 1, 2008 #7


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    It sounds more like they were planning on discussing some classified information.

    Of course, if it is (properly) classified, its disclosure would constitute damage the national security of the United States. (I think I heard them say it was "secret" information, meaning the damage would be serious)
  9. Aug 1, 2008 #8

    This somehow allows phone companies to spy on you?
    Tell me.. would you be ok with someone suing you because government agents showed up at your door and told you that you needed to allow them access to your place so they could spy on your neighbour and you allowed them in order to not have problems with the government?

    Also I thought that this whole thing was about implimentation of a datamining project? In which case no one is actually listening to anyones phone calls. A computer is simply sifting for data regarding the incidents of certain words and phrases.
  10. Aug 1, 2008 #9


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    It is rare. The original info provided to Congress could only be provided to a few key members.

    You don't have to have any sort of security clearance to get elected. In fact, if you choose your district well, you don't have to get all that many votes. If you pick a virtually one-party district to run in, you effectively only have to win the primary to be elected.

    There's been numerous instances in the last couple of years alone where Congressmen have considered the perks of office to be more important than integrity. There have been a few instances where embarrassing personal info about a person could (and have) ended a politician's career. Knowing what happens when such info comes out could make a Congressman tempted to give in to blackmail, even if not outright bribery.

    Being elected is no guarantee that a Congressman is someone you would want to trust with classified information. Stretching so far as to provide classified information to the entire Congress, even at a Secret level, is a pretty big step towards acknowledging that the risk of disclosure has to be balanced against the right of the public to at least be represented by someone who has some idea of what they're voting on, even if the information can't be released to the general public.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  11. Aug 1, 2008 #10
    Is that how you're spinning it? At least get a better analogy:

    "Would you be ok with someone suing you because government agents showed up at your door and told you that you needed to allow them access to your place so they could spy on ALL of your neighbors because one of them might be a terrorist. Oh, and the don't have the resources for it, so it's actually you doing the spying and then reporting back to them."

    1) No problems with the government =/= giving them favors. I know of no law that requires the telecon companies to comply. They could just as well say "bugger off" and be safe.

    2) The telecons already said "Yeah, we'll do it anyway even if not given immunity." because they decided they can handle any lawsuits. So, why the push for telecon immunity?

    Because if it came to a lawsuit the telecons could rightfully just say "Hey, I was just doing what The Man told me to do." and then the blame would lie with the Bush administration. This way, if the lawsuits aren't even permitted, nothing can be traced back to them.

    It involves warrantless wiretapping. I don't care what purpose they serve, it's illegal regardless.
  12. Aug 1, 2008 #11
    Yet you failed to mention the 3rd alternative---allowing our government to proceed without any scrutiny from the public, allowing the officials that we elected to make decisions that do not represent what the constituents want, and allowing to all of this happen without anyone knowing. I cannot take your opinion seriously also until you can show what serious side effects this may have in the future.

    That is why we have agencies like the NSA, Pentagon, and FBI. If you want supposed secrecy you go to them. When Congress starts operating a secretive agenda it is a much different story. They are the ones who are in the public eye and they ultimately pass all our laws.

    For now. Why should we stand by and continue to let our freedom slip away in the name of security? It is rather naive to think that the more we allow the government to secretly read all of our email and listen in on phone conversations without a warrant that everything the US originally stood for will continue to survive. It is only a matter of time before people are arrested and taken away based only on a speculative email that was sent in 'private'. This will happen because the public allowed it under the guise of 'national security'.

    Wrong. You can even read your citation further. Everything that was in your citation was in the citation I provided on the general overview of the FISA amendments. Not only does it protect phone companies from lawsuits, FISA was reformed so that certain forms of communication can be spied on without supervision from a FISA court.

    1.) you now are able to listen in on people without any oversight from any court and need no warrant

    2.) you can't even sue the instrument by which all of this can occur through

    It's more than just phone companies. It includes things like email as well. What protection do the people have against the government? One of the only things that they have is a lawsuit. This has been taken away. The only other thing left is a gun. It is quite pathetic when even one of the top Republicans in the Senate (Arlen Specter) says that the recent passage of granting immunity from lawsuits to telecoms helping with spying is like buying a "pig in a poke".
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2008
  13. Aug 1, 2008 #12


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Now, I'm really confused.

    I understand why you'd be against Congress operating in secret being a bad idea. The public should know what Congress is doing - who's voting for or against what, etc.

    Are you saying allowing Congress access to classified information in a secret session sets a bad precedent that could be used as an excuse to start hiding routine operations of Congress?

    And you're saying the precedent is bad enough that the NSA, Pentagon, FBI should conduct their classified operations without oversight by Congress?

    Or is your argument that it was wrong for Congress not to shut down the wiretapping program and the secret session inhibits the abilty to hold each Congressman accountable?

    Reading through all of the posts, I now think it's the third. Leading in with the issue of a secret session just confused the issue.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2008
  14. Aug 1, 2008 #13
    I don't really have a problem with the entire house of representative holding a secret meeting. They must have had a good reason for not wanting it to be made public.

    It does seem that not much makes it through this type of meeting without some kind of leak.

    I am much more concerned about the White House's latest move regarding intelligence gathering. Putting it all under one political appointee who is only responsible to the president is troubling.


    This intelligence revamp was presented to the combined house senate intelligence committee just as it was being sent to Bush for his signature. Some republicans actually got up and walked out as they had not been allowed to participate in making the changes.
  15. Aug 1, 2008 #14
    Another article about the Intelligence revam in the Wall Street Journal goes a bit deeper into a troublesome area. I am not a big fan of the ACLU, but I think they have it right on this one.


    Edit: It appears I may not be all that much off topic.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2008
  16. Aug 1, 2008 #15


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Why? This is exactly the kind of thing that the 9/11 commission suggested be done. Previously, all of those intel. agencies were still under executive control, they just ran their own fiefdoms, leading to things like the FBI not telling anybody else that there were guys from the Middle East getting flight training. This most recent change to the DNI fixes the dysfunction in the original creation: the DNI had no power to fire anyone, so despite the title he/she could be given the Bronx cheer without consequence.
  17. Aug 1, 2008 #16
    As far as 911 Bush was made aware that something was up. He failed to connect the dots.


    I would rather they had included some kind of back up in the new intel structure . As it is now if one person or agency fails it all goes down the tubes. Redundancy in regards to security is a good thing if managed properly.

    I don't think that it is good to have one individual make all of the intel decisions, especially when that person is a political appointee.

    There is no guarantee that the new methods will reduce inter-agency rivalries and that is the key.

    As far as the 911 Commissions suggestion, Bush could have done this a long time ago if that is what the revamp of intel was all about. As a matter of fact if that is what it was about, Bush has been negligent in not doing it much sooner.

    On a more realistic approach I see the revamp as being more about releasing private communications companies from liability, and covering Bush's a$$ than anything.
  18. Aug 1, 2008 #17
    They were just discussing GW surprise farewell party.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook