Martinez Congressman George Miller, who announced last week he won’t seek re-election after 20 terms in office, appeared on KQED’s “Forum” on Thursday to reflect on his 40 years representing the East Bay. In an interview that covered everything from the Affordable Care Act to his No Child Left Behind legislation, it was his criticism of the House and Senate intelligence committees that stood out.
Miller’s harsh words for how the intelligence panels operate came in response to a listener who asked in part: “The recent Manning & Snowden leaks seem to show the same abuses enumerated in the Church Committee of the late ’70s. How can the next Rep. to sit in his seat restrain NSA spying, CIA secret killing, and wars based on lies like Iraq better than the last 30 years?”
And here’s Miller’s response:
“That’s a tough question, but I think that person better be real skeptical. I went in with the Watergate papers; Frank Church’s report on the Intelligence Committee that looks a lot like the report on the NSA; Michael Harrington, the congressman from Massachusetts, who was talking about spying and the rest of this, essentially probably had to leave Congress because of his public discussion of that.
When I voted for the amendment that sort of pulled the NSA up short in the House a couple months ago, that vote for me was more about the House intelligence and the Senate intelligence committees because I think those committees are set up not to have real oversight, but so the intelligence agencies can say that they come and they’ve talked to Congress: ‘We informed Congress.’ They informed them in such an opaque fashion that the members of the committee are (saying) to one another: ‘Did they tell us this? How do we find out? Where was this? Where was that?’
And they’ll tell you, as they ask very pointed questions. Many times the answers are never forthcoming, weeks and months later. So I think that Congress, as representatives of the people — the people can’t do all of this — they better rethink their intelligence committee oversight on these agencies, because they’re getting buffaloed on a daily basis by these agencies and passing the buck around.”
You can listen to the full interview below: