[Congressional Record: March 13, 2008 (House)]
[Page H1690-H1699]


  Mr. HOYER. Madam Speaker, at the request of, and after discussion 
with, the distinguished Republican whip, I ask unanimous consent that 
at a time designated by the Speaker on the legislative day of March 13, 
2008, the House resolve itself into secret session as though pursuant 
to clause 8 of rule XVII; secondly, debate in such secret session 
proceed without intervening motion for 1 hour equally divided and 
controlled by the majority leader and the minority whip; and, thirdly, 
at the conclusion of that debate, the secret session shall be 
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Maryland?
  Mr. BLUNT. Reserving the right to object, Madam Speaker, I believe I 
heard the leader say clause 8.
  Did you mean clause 9?
  Mr. HOYER. Clause 9. Excuse me.
  Mr. BLUNT. Clause 9. And this secret session would be convened at 
some time by the Speaker today when the room has been secured and would 
dissolve at the end of an hour of discussion? Is that what I 
  Mr. HOYER. That's what the consent agreement is, pursuant to our 
  Mr. BLUNT. I withdraw my reservation, Madam Speaker.
  Mr. KUCINICH. Reserving the right to object, Madam Speaker, would the 
gentleman from Maryland yield to a question?
  Mr. HOYER. Certainly.
  Mr. KUCINICH. Can you divulge to this House what is going to be 
discussed, not the content of it, but the topic that's going to be 
  Mr. HOYER. My presumption is, and I think that's accurate because of 
my discussions with the Republican whip, the discussion will be with 
reference to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
  Mr. KUCINICH. And the debate that will take place regarding the 
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, what would conceivably be the 
nature of that debate?
  Mr. HOYER. I can't tell you that because I don't know.
  Mr. KUCINICH. Is it going to be debate over legislation?
  Mr. HOYER. I presume, I tell the gentleman from Ohio, that it 
certainly will relate to the legislation that we will then be 
considering probably at this point in time tomorrow.
  Mr. KUCINICH. The gentleman, in his long experience in the House, 
could he communicate to those who have, in my case, been in this House 
12 years or less, anytime in your experience where the House has 
debated legislation in secret?
  Mr. HOYER. My presumption is that we will not debate the legislation 
in secret. Not only is that my presumption, I think we will clearly 
have public debate tomorrow on the bill. The minority whip came to me 
indicating that there were things he thought the Members ought to have 
knowledge of that he was of the opinion could not be divulged in public 
debate. There is a provision under our rules to accomplish that 
objective. After discussion with him and limitation on the time so that 
we could, in fact, get to a vote on what we believe is very important 
legislation, we have agreed to this arrangement. Again, it's limited, 
but we did not want to be nor are we in the position of saying to the 
minority whip if he has such information that we want to preclude that 
from being offered, because we want no indication that any information 
is being withheld. That is appropriate, obviously. There are going to 
be restrictions, obviously, even in the context of the session.
  Mr. KUCINICH. My friend has said two things. One is that there's an 
assumption that it's going to be about FISA, and another one is that 
there is going to be a debate of sorts.
  When I asked the question if you are aware of whether or not anything 
like this has happened before, we are talking about specific 
legislation that is before this House, would the gentleman know what 
the precedent for this is? Is this unprecedented that the House of 
Representatives would be meeting in secret preliminary to legislation 
that it intends to pass? I haven't experienced this in my time; and for 
information purposes, I would ask the gentleman, who has been here, I 
think 26, 28 years, if in his experience he can remember that.
  Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman. In responding to him, I believe, 
and I'm not, frankly, absolutely positive, and I am hoping that 
somebody perhaps on the Intelligence Committee staff or others in the 
House knows, but I believe that during the early 1980s, 1983, on 
Contragate there was such a session.
  Mr. KUCINICH. When?
  Mr. HOYER. In 1983.
  Mr. KUCINICH. On what?

[[Page H1691]]

  Mr. HOYER. Contragate.
  Mr. KUCINICH. Iran-Contra?
  Mr. HOYER. Yes.
  Mr. KUCINICH. Was that before the hearings or after the hearings?
  Mr. HOYER. I don't know the answer to that question.
  Mr. KUCINICH. Well, I mean there's relevance here.
  Mr. HOYER. If you will yield to Mr. Blunt, he may be able to offer 
some information.
  Mr. KUCINICH. I yield to my friend, Mr. Blunt.
  Mr. BLUNT. My friend, I didn't quite hear your last question.
  Mr. KUCINICH. I said was it Iran-Contra?
  Mr. BLUNT. It was not on Iran-Contra. It was 1983 and it was on 
Contra. In fact, our colleague from Florida (Mr. Young) called for that 
secret session in 1983. There was also a secret session in 1979 and in 
1980. So there have been three of these. They were in recent years, but 
it has obviously been a long time since 1983.
  Mr. KUCINICH. And they were preliminary to the passing of 
  Mr. BLUNT. I don't know the answer to that.
  Mr. KUCINICH. I just want to point out something here, Madam Speaker, 
as this House proceeds on this track. There are some of us here who 
feel that this country has drifted towards a version of a national 
security state. When the House begins to meet in secret on matters that 
relate to security prior to legislative acts, it raises questions about 
the Constitution of the United States. I know I am familiar with my 
friends' awareness that the Constitution gives the Congress the ability 
to make its own rules. I also understand from the first amendment that 
Congress wouldn't restrict any establishment of free speech. This is 
the citadel of free speech. This is the only place in America that 
someone can stand and say anything they want at any time and be free 
from any kind of a legal attack.
  Once we close that up, we're changing the nature of it at a time when 
this country's at war, when there have been questions raised about 
secret meetings and what was told with respect to torture, about secret 
meetings and what was told with respect to rendition, about secret 
meetings and what was told with respect to private corporations doing 
  I just want the Members of this House to incorporate that in their 
reflections when we proceed to approve an agreement for a secret 
  I'd also like to state this, to just share my experience, and that is 
without referring to any content of any secret meeting I have been in, 
and I have been in a few at the beginning of my term in the House, I 
have found from my own experience, from my own experience, that secret 
meetings end up being occasions for the communication of information 
of, at least at best, dubious value. And I am not in any way impugning 
the motives of my good friends who are asking for a secret meeting in 
this case. But I am sharing with you my experience prior to this moment 
that secret meetings have been the occasion to communicate information 
that hasn't been particularly forthright or true.
  Now, I could point to individuals, at least one individual who is 
sitting in this Chamber right now, who, when we had a secret meeting 
right after 9/11, walked right down that aisle and uttered a famous 
barnyard expletive after we were being briefed in a secret meeting by a 
member of the administration. Some of you who were there at the time 
remember. So I'm just communicating a concern here about the path we're 
going down, and I can only do that.
  I will not attend that meeting. I will withdraw my reservation of 
objection. But I want to have my friends here know that we ought to be 
proceeding with the utmost caution in going in this direction. I am not 
going to be attending such a session. I believe that it violates the 
spirit of this House, but I will withdraw my reservation of objection 
since my good friend feels that this is the path that he has to go.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there further objection?
  Mr. PASTOR. Madam Speaker, reserving the right to object, would the 
leader yield for two questions?
  Mr. HOYER. Yes.
  Mr. PASTOR. As I understand the situation, we are going to secure the 
Chamber, and in securing the Chamber, I think it means that from the 
Cloakroom, the people who work the Cloakroom who usually tell us when 
the Chamber will be cleared, how are they going to communicate that we 
can come back in for the secret session?
  Mr. HOYER. The answer to the question is you will all be receiving 
from the leader and the whip's office on your e-mails notification of 
the time and you will get sufficient notice. It is contingent upon how 
long it takes those that have the responsibility to do so. But you will 
be getting your e-mails in a time frame that will allow you to get back 
  Mr. PASTOR. The second question I have is do you expect to have 
further votes tonight, for those of us who will not attend this secret 
session and we won't know when it's finished?
  Mr. HOYER. If this is approved, my expectation is there probably will 
be no further votes tonight.
  Mr. PASTOR. I withdraw my reservation of objection, Madam Speaker.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there further objection?
  Mr. DOGGETT. Reserving the right to object, Madam Speaker, certainly 
if the minority leader or any other Member of this House has classified 
information about a sensitive, important subject like foreign 
intelligence and there is no other way to present it, this is an 
appropriate way to do it. I want to be sure that I understand the 
parameters under which that's being done.
  It is occurring pursuant to a unanimous consent agreement that sets 
forth the conditions of this meeting?
  Mr. HOYER. Yes.
  Mr. DOGGETT. And the minority leader has mentioned there were secret 
sessions in this House in 1979, in 1980, and 1983; and apparently there 
has not been one since 1983, to the best of your knowledge?
  Mr. HOYER. I think that's accurate.
  Mr. BLUNT. If the gentleman would yield, that's to the best of my 
knowledge. I'm the minority whip. I am sure the leader would verify 
that as well, and we have Members who were here during that time. But 
there has not been a secret session since 1983. There have clearly been 
times when the room has been secured, but not for secret session.
  Mr. DOGGETT. So in the history of the United States Congress since 
its founding, there have been secret sessions no more than five times?
  Mr. BLUNT. That's not correct.
  Mr. DOGGETT. Do you have an estimate of it?
  Mr. BLUNT. I think in the early days they were in secret session all 
the time or much of the time. Since 1825, I think, there have been 
three secret sessions. Prior to that I think there were many secret 
  Mr. DOGGETT. So since 1825, three times in the history of this 
country, and at no time since 1983 we have done what you are proposing 
in this unanimous consent agreement to do.

                              {time}  1815

  Now, in this session, so that I understand the parameters and assure 
that we are not really doing the public's business in secret that ought 
to be done out here in public, will the session and the debate be 
limited to the presentation of classified material or the discussion of 
the significance of that classified material?
  Mr. HOYER. That is my expectation.
  Mr. BLUNT. If we move this without unanimous consent under the rules, 
it provides for 1 hour of debate, and you can debate and discuss the 
information that is presented and the conclusions that may have been 
drawn from that information.
  Mr. DOGGETT. Let me just get clarification of that.
  Mr. BLUNT. I don't have the time.
  Mr. DOGGETT. I would not want to limit the ability of anyone to 
debate any aspect of this. If their points are clear and justified, I 
would want them to do that in front of the American people and not in a 
secret session, unless it in some way compromised the confidentiality 
and the classified nature of the material.
  And that is why I am trying to be sure that if I come tonight, as I 
intend to do, to this session, and I hear an hour or 15 or 20 minutes 
of debate that has nothing to do with these classified materials, I 
want to know if I am going to have the right to raise a point of order 
that this is conducting the

[[Page H1692]]

public's business in secret and that we have been brought here under 
false pretenses. I assume that won't happen, but I want to be clear 
before going into this session what my rights are pursuant to the 
unanimous consent agreement. Because if the unanimous consent agreement 
does not protect that, then it would be appropriate, I suppose, at this 
time, to ask that the agreement be amended to provide something along 
those lines.
  Mr. HOYER. I think the answer is that, within the framework of the 
unanimous consent, I've requested there is not such a limitation. I 
think the gentleman is correct on that. However, as I said, my 
expectation and my discussions with the whip ares that the purpose of 
the session is to offer information that might not otherwise be 
appropriate to disclose in public session.
  My expectation is there is going to be a fulsome debate, as there has 
been, tomorrow on the legislation itself. So my expectation, given the 
shortness of the time that we are talking about, 30 minutes per side, 
we will have the Intelligence Committee here and the Judiciary 
Committee here to comment, obviously it is going to be a little 
difficult, because if there is information brought up that there may be 
comment on that information, and very frankly, the parameters of the 
debate tomorrow may, although not disclosing that information, may 
obviously be perceived by many of us as relating to whatever is 
discussed. It is very difficult to know specifically because I do not 
know the specific information that that request was made for.
  Mr. DOGGETT. I understand. If there is discussion and debate of 
matters that do not concern classified materials, then under the terms 
of the unanimous consent agreement and the rules of the House, is any 
Member of this House who is present for that discussion free to openly 
discuss in public, during later debate, what was said during that 
  Mr. HOYER. I think that's a very good question. Let me tell you that 
we have asked. Mr. Blunt and I have discussed that. And we have asked 
the appropriate officials, bipartisan officials, of this House, under 
the rules, to give us the answer to that question and to have on paper 
the specific advice to every Member of the House so that we cannot have 
Members go out of here, put themselves at risk of violation of the 
rules, have clear advice and counsel as to what that is.
  Now, it is my belief, this is not an opinion given to me, but it is 
my belief that every Member of this House that receives information 
from sources unrelated to this hour are certainly free, as they are 
right now, to discuss that information. And the fact that it is 
discussed in the session would not adversely affect that right. I would 
be shocked and not in agreement with this unanimous consent if the case 
were otherwise.
  Mr. DANIEL E. LUNGREN of California. Would the gentleman yield?
  Mr. DOGGETT. I believe I control the time under the reservation, but 
I yield to you.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Texas controls the time.
  Mr. DANIEL E. LUNGREN of California. I was here for the last three 
secret sessions we had. They are unusual, but it is within the rules 
that did deal with subject matter dealing with legislation that we were 
to talk about. We should be careful, however, while some classified 
information might be discussed, the information that those of us on the 
Judiciary Committee and Intelligence Committee received of the program 
we were read into, we are not able to discuss what we were briefed on 
specifically. We are, as I understand under the rules, able to draw 
conclusions and attempt to present that based on what we saw, but the 
fact that we have a secret session does not allow us to speak to that.
  Secondly, that which is discussed in the secret session cannot be 
revealed even if it is of an unclassified nature. It does not prohibit 
you in the later debate on the floor from discussing the same subject 
saying the same thing; it is that you cannot refer to it having been in 
the secret session.
  And I hope that helps the gentleman.
  Mr. DOGGETT. You are saying you were here in 1979, 1980 and 1983 for 
those three sessions?
  Mr. DANIEL E. LUNGREN of California. Believe it or not, I was, as 
young as I am now.
  Mr. HOYER. We are not surprised by that.
  Mr. DOGGETT. I would just suggest that we could be better off having 
this done in the unanimous consent agreement itself, since that is 
what's setting out the terms of this discussion. It is a very, very 
serious matter when we do the public's business in secret. That is why 
it has only been done three times since 1825. And it is a very bad 
precedent for this House to get into the business of conducting any of 
its business in secret, except, and Mr. Blunt appears to provide the 
exception, except under a circumstance where there's classified 
material on something as important as the security of our families. And 
so long as we have set out all the parameters of the meeting in the 
agreement, then I have no problem with it. But I don't want it to 
wander off in debate, which now my friend tells me I can't talk about 
afterwards, because I came to this secret session about something that 
maybe didn't need to be secret.
  Mr. HOYER. Madam Speaker, will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. DOGGETT. I yield to the gentleman from Maryland.
  Mr. HOYER. The contemplation of this unanimous consent is that there 
will be no business done in the sense of ``doing business'' as taking 
legislative action. Nobody contemplates that.
  Mr. DOGGETT. I understand the distinction, but I think of my history 
with the Texas Open Meetings Act, and just the discussing of these 
matters is part of public business.
  Mr. HOYER. If I could continue, there are some in this body who have, 
because of their membership on particular committees, been able to see 
information in secret which other Members of this body have not 
seen. As the distinguished gentleman from California observed, there 
are still limitations notwithstanding this secret session.

  We have a room that allows people to receive information in secret. 
They are not necessarily transacting business; although, the 
Intelligence Committee obviously on both Houses does, in fact, conduct 
its business in secret in that they vote in secret on some legislation.
  All this contemplates is the offering and receiving of information 
that the minority has represented they believe they want to give to the 
Members that they ought not to give in open session. The matter that we 
are considering obviously is a very important, critical matter. There 
are substantial, as you know, differences. You and I agree on most of 
those. We perhaps disagree with others. It was the Speaker's and my 
view after discussing with Mr. Conyers and Mr. Reyes that to deny that 
would give Members the impression that somehow we did not believe they 
ought to have that information.
  Now, I don't know what the information is, as I have said. But having 
said that, we certainly do not contemplate any business being done. 
Now, the fact that a Member may say something that is not secret, I 
would presume things are going to be said in there that are not secret. 
The gentleman from Ohio raised some excellent points. I share the 
concern of the gentleman from Texas and the concerns.
  But I also understand this is a serious matter. We believe in public 
we will debate tomorrow a serious proposal as to how to serve our 
intelligence interests and our constitutional responsibilities. So I am 
hopeful that we will not object to this, although I think the concerns 
raised are absolutely legitimate, very serious, worthwhile concerns, 
and as the gentleman from Texas observes, which is why this is done so 
very infrequently. I have only been a participant in the 1983 session.
  I thank the gentleman for yielding. But that is my take on what is 
going to transpire.
  Mr. BLUNT. Madam Speaker, will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. DOGGETT. I yield to the gentleman from Texas.
  Mr. BLUNT. I will say to my friend, I appreciate your concern about 
this. I would also say the rules provide for this kind of session. Many 
Members of the House, more Members in the majority than the minority 
were here when we had a secret session before when we talked about 
implementing legislation of the Panama Canal Zone or Cuba and other 
Communist block countries' involvement in Nicaragua.

[[Page H1693]]

  I actually think that the debate that we are entering into this week 
is at a high level of security for the country. I believe I will bring 
information to the secret session that some Members are aware of but 
most are not. I also think that by the definition of the mutual 
agreement that we would divide the time, that I am only bringing part 
of the discussion. I certainly can't suggest what will happen in the 
questions, comments, and concerns that will come from the other side. 
So at least 30 minutes of the hour, I also have no idea what will be 
said in that, but I thought that was a fair way to divide the hour that 
I could at least ask for to control on my own under the rules with none 
of the restrictions the gentleman has suggested, and a majority of the 
Members of the House can either decide to do that or not.
  And I appreciate the Speaker and the leader trying to work in this 
important issue to create an environment where we can talk about topics 
that we could not otherwise talk about. I am also sure, as my friend 
from California suggested, that some of the things that will be talked 
about very likely can and will be talked about later in the week, 
because they will be related to a secret topic but not secret in 
nature. You just can't discuss them as having been discussed as part of 
this secret session. You just discuss them as you would if we hadn't 
had the secret session that the rules clearly allow for.
  And again, the most times these rules were exercised in the history 
of the Congress was not in the 1820s or 1830s. It was in the 1970s and 
the 1980s. And many Members of the majority were here during that time 
and participated in those sessions.
  I thank the gentleman for yielding.
  Mr. DOGGETT. You ease some of my concerns. But when you talk about 
the seventies and the eighties and the like, it is three times since 
  Let me just be sure that I'm clear, because maybe we are in agreement 
on this. The only purpose of your requesting this secret session is to 
present to the House, or have others present, matters that you feel you 
cannot present in public concerning matters that are classified. It may 
be necessary to discuss other interrelated matters, and you can 
anticipate what questions you may be asked, but the only reason for 
convening the House tonight in secret is because there are classified 
matters that you feel would jeopardize the security of our country if 
we discussed them in public.
  Mr. BLUNT. I think I am in agreement with the parameters the 
gentleman has suggested. I also understand that when you raise those 
topics, you have perhaps a fuller exchange of ideas, but certainly you 
can't control what the exchange of ideas will be in the hour that we 
would mutually agree to give ourselves for this topic. And I believe 
the topic is every bit as important as implementing legislation for the 
Panama Canal Zone or other things that this has been used for in the 
past. And I frankly think the topic is of supreme importance to the 
security of the country.
  And that is why I was prepared to make the request, but also prepared 
not to make the request with, my discussions with the majority leader 
and the Speaker about a way that we could mutually agree how to divide 
the time, how to establish rules that go beyond the rule that I would 
have been entitled to ask for, but perhaps not as far as being able to 
prove that we wouldn't talk about anything in that hour that wasn't of 
a secret nature. And I would thank the gentleman for yielding.
  Mr. OBEY. Madam Speaker, will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. DOGGETT. I yield to the gentleman from Wisconsin.
  Mr. OBEY. I thank the gentleman. Let me simply say I was here for 
those secret sessions. And I think the great utility of having another 
one, given the mumbo jumbo that I heard at the last three, is simply to 
demonstrate the almost total uselessness of secret sessions.

                              {time}  1830

  Mr. DOGGETT. Madam Speaker, I will at this point withdraw my 
reservation, but would want noted by the reservation my concern as a 
former member of the Judiciary about the precedent-setting nature of 
this. This is the fourth time since 1825, and I just ask that we stick 
to the purpose for which the gentleman has said we are gathering, and 
we give the most careful consideration before embarking on any such 
secret sessions in the future.
  Mr. HOYER. I appreciate the gentleman's comments.
  Mr. DOGGETT. I withdraw my reservation.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Maryland?
  Mr. PRICE of Georgia. Madam Speaker, reserving the right to object, I 
appreciate the comments of my friend from Texas on our concern about 
our not conducting our business in secret. We share those concerns. 
Although this isn't unprecedented, it is an extraordinary act for this 
Congress to take.
  I think it is important that many of us, at least on this side of the 
aisle, believe the necessity for this is because the Protect America 
Act has not been brought to the floor and the House hasn't been allowed 
to vote on it. Consequently, we believe that it is important to have a 
discussion that hopefully will allow our friends, many of our friends 
on the other side of the aisle, to see the imperative of moving forward 
with the Protect America Act and allowing H.R. 3773 with the Senate 
amendments to be voted on on this floor of the House.
  So I will be supporting moving into the secret session, because I 
believe that it is a step that will allow our colleagues on the other 
side of the aisle to appreciate and understand the imperative of having 
a vote on the floor of the House to the Senate amendments and concur in 
those Senate amendments to H.R. 3773.
  Madam Speaker, I withdraw my reservation.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Maryland?
  Mr. SERRANO. Madam Speaker, I reserve the right to object.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from New York is recognized.
  Mr. SERRANO. The least important thing I can think of, the least 
important, is that the American public doesn't think too well of 
Congress right now, and going into a secret session is not going to 
help that. But that is the least important thing.
  It almost sounds like we need a secret session prior to the secret 
session to tell the membership what we are allowed to do and say after 
the secret session. Some of us who oppose many of the things that have 
happened since September 11 have already drawn conclusions as to what 
we think is happening or not happening. I am not privy to all the 
intelligence and I don't think anyone is, and there are some folks in 
our government and some agencies historically that I don't trust. So I 
will never really know what the truth is. But I have a sense of what 
the truth may be and what the danger is of what we are doing in this 
country at this point.
  So my concern is, at what point does what I feel and know become part 
of what is discussed at this session, and therefore if I keep 
discussing it in public I have now violated the secret session that I 
wasn't supposed to violate? I heard before that some things will be 
discussed at the secret session that are not classified. So if I 
discuss them later, am I in violation of House rules?
  In other words, what I am suggesting, Mr. Leader, is that to tell the 
membership that we are having a secret session and have someone like me 
who has been here 18 years say what is that, without preparation for 
this extreme type of behavior, is to put the membership at risk. At 
  We don't want to walk into this blindly, and I am walking into it 
blindly if I decide to attend. I don't know what I am allowed to say 
and do, and I say a lot of things about our behavior.
  So I would hope if we are going to do this, we actually, and this is 
not a very popular notion, take some extra time in private to tell us. 
I know what happens when a general comes to me and tells me something 
that is going on in Iraq. I know I can't say that, because it was a 
classified meeting. I know that. But this is going to be debate. How is 
that debate going to be different from some things we say tomorrow in 
open debate? And if I forget, and I am not trying to be funny here, and 
mention some of that debate in this debate, what violation am I in?
  My last point: With all due respect, if the gentleman has secret 

[[Page H1694]]

that speaks to the safety of my beloved country, our country, why 
didn't the gentleman take that information to the chairman of the 
Intelligence Committee, where it belongs? Why bring it to the whole 
House and put us all in that situation, when indeed we have an 
Intelligence Committee, we have a ranking member, we have a full 
  I as a Member would be totally comfortable with the gentleman 
bringing that information. I assure you that if I ever learn anything 
that I believe can hurt our country, I will bring it to the 
Intelligence Committee right away. I will not call for a secret session 
that puts us at risk, that makes the American people think that we 
don't want to discuss in public some things, and that may in fact 
strike fear into Members to vote for a bill that we probably should not 
vote for.
  Madam Speaker, I withdraw my reservation.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Does any Member further object?
  Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Madam Speaker, I reserve the right to 
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Florida is recognized.
  Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Madam Speaker, one of the reasons that we 
find ourselves in this position is the discussion between both Houses 
of Congress and Members on either side regarding immunity. It is 
fascinating that we find ourselves in the position of debating giving 
immunity to people that we don't know what violations they have 
committed that we are giving them immunity for. Very strange.
  But I would ask the distinguished majority leader and the 
distinguished minority leader a very serious question: Who has the 
classified information? As I listened to both of you, I did not get 
clarity as to whether either of you know what is supposed to be that 
information. And if that person has classified information, at what 
level is it? Is it at top secret, or is it at secret? Can either of the 
distinguished gentlemen provide that information to this Member?
  Mr. BLUNT. Madam Speaker, will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. I would be happy to yield to the gentleman 
from Missouri.
  Mr. BLUNT. I think it would be my obligation, even though I haven't 
actually moved to do so based on our discussions, to bring information 
and communicate information that is confidential and that I believe 
ought to be kept secret at this time. I will also remind my colleagues 
that many of them in September of 2006 voted to go into secret session, 
and we didn't go into secret session that day. I am pleased that we 
appear to be moving in that direction. But there is a time that the 
rules call for when you are in a situation where the national security 
of the country is important, and there is much of the information that 
reaches a secret level that could be discussed in a secret session that 
conclusions have been drawn from and can be drawn from, that my belief 
is we would benefit from that discussion.
  Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Reclaiming my time and continuing my 
reservation, with all due respect, I don't think the distinguished 
minority leader answered the question that I asked, and that is, Who 
has the classified information?
  Mr. BLUNT. If the gentleman will yield further, I think I said it 
would be my obligation to bring that information. Because of my 
clearance level, I have seen the secret information, and information at 
other levels as well, and would anticipate bringing information to the 
secret session at the secret level.
  Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. It is at the secret level.
  Mr. BLUNT. At the secret level.
  Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. That being said, I will not object. But as 
other Members have, I will place on the Record I came here with the 
thought in mind that there was a substantial reason for us to go 
forward with a secret session, but I have learned from a considerable 
amount of experience in this arena that there are times when it is best 
not to be where ostensibly secret information is supposed to be 
provided, so at least I will not attend the session.
  Madam Speaker, I withdraw my reservation.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there further objection?
  Ms. KAPTUR. I reserve the right to object, Madam Speaker.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentlewoman from Ohio is recognized.
  Ms. KAPTUR. Madam Speaker, reserving the right to object, and I 
likely will object, in my 26th year in the House I guess first I look 
at the clock. It is Thursday night, almost 7 p.m. here in Washington. 
We have been in session all week long. We knew that FISA would be 
coming up. Now at this moment a secret session is requested.
  As a member of one of the key committees in the House, the Defense 
Appropriations Subcommittee, whatever is so secret has never been 
discussed in our subcommittee. We have been having repeated meetings 
every day for the last several weeks.
  I don't know if this has come up before our Intelligence Committee. I 
notice that most of the people who are asking are not ranking members 
on some of our key committees dealing with the oversight of 
intelligence in our country, and that makes me wonder why on Thursday 
night, when people have had to change their plane reservations, this is 
coming up now.
  I ask myself, is there any imminent danger to our country that would 
require such a secret session now, and why is the gentleman asking and 
not the minority leader asking, if it is so imminent and it is so much 
a threat?
  Mr. BLUNT. Madam Speaker, will the gentlewoman yield?
  Ms. KAPTUR. I yield to the gentleman from Missouri.
  Mr. BLUNT. The timing of the floor, I would tell my friend from Ohio, 
is not up to me, and it has been well known for this entire day that I 
would make this request at sometime during the day. We worked with the 
majority to try to get the budget out of the way. It is my impression 
we were going to be here on Friday anyway. Maybe others had better 
knowledge of plane reservations than I did, but I think we are here on 
  I think the Friday work we would do is critically important, and my 
view is that this discussion adds to the knowledge that the Members 
will have as we have the debate on the bill tomorrow. Of course, I 
would much prefer we were voting on the Senate bill tomorrow, a bill 
that could go to the President; but I don't control that either, not 
being in the majority.
  Ms. KAPTUR. Continuing my reservation, most of the information that I 
have ever sought relating to intelligence, one can ask special 
permission. You can go up to the room in the Capitol and you can read 
anything. You can read for days. I really don't understand what the 
minority is doing here tonight.
  I am not comfortable with this at all. We had caucus meetings this 
week. This never came up. I understand under the rules you can ask for 
it and it can come up almost immediately, but I just am extraordinarily 
uncomfortable with being asked to hold this session tonight.
  I won't attend, and I think there is special responsibility on the 
gentleman for providing documentation in the regular channels in the 
Intelligence Committee and in the other committees that have oversight 
over intelligence for the information that you claim you are going to 
be presenting to this Chamber.
  I would just urge our leadership to not approve this.
  Madam Speaker, I withdraw my reservation for the moment.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there further objection?
  Ms. WATSON. Madam Speaker, I reserve the right to object to this 
  I am feeling manipulated. My question is, if there is confidential 
information, why was it not taken to the Intelligence Committee first 
before there is a secret session?
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Does the gentlewoman reserve the right to 
object to the request?
  Mr. HOYER. If the gentlewoman will yield, I believe the gentlewoman 
is reserving her right to object and wanted to speak on the issue.
  Ms. WATSON. I reserve my right to object. That is what I said before 
I came to the mike. I guess I wasn't heard.
  Mr. HOYER. The gentlewoman has the floor.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentlewoman from California is 

[[Page H1695]]

  Ms. WATSON. Madam Speaker, I want to know why the Intelligence 
Committee did not receive the confidential information that I am 
hearing is going to be discussed here. If the information discussed 
here is not confidential, why do we need a secret session and to what 
end are we having this? We are supposed to vote on FISA tomorrow. I 
understand there is a compromise that pretty much has been agreed upon. 
I have been whipping it.
  So I want to know to what end we are having this secret session. I 
would like to yield to you, Mr. Blunt.

                              {time}  1845

  Mr. BLUNT. I thank the gentlelady for yielding.
  I would say that every knowledge I have would indicate that our 
Intelligence Committees have seen the information, and that does not 
preclude moving to secret session to share information with other 
Members. I appreciate what some other Members have said about the 
difficulty of remembering what's secret and what's not, because those 
of us who have the obligation or the clearance level to look at this 
information have to do that.
  I think the information we will bring to the floor will not be 
confusing to the Members but enlightening to the Members, and that's 
why I propose that we will move for a secret session later in the day 
if this UC is not agreed to.
  Ms. WATSON. Reclaiming my time, I would like to know the purpose of 
the secret session, if you have confidential information, why it was 
not taken to Intelligence before it was brought here to the Chambers in 
  I have got to go back to my district and explain to my constituents 
why we had a secret session before we voted on the FISA bill.
  Mr. BLUNT. I actually think it would be harder to explain to our 
constituents why we didn't have a secret session.
  This is a bill that goes well beyond the information that most 
Members would normally have. I think the secret session will be helpful 
to the Members, or I wouldn't have said early today that I would ask 
for it. The information that I have, I believe, will be information 
that, in my opinion, has been available to the Members with the 
security clearance that allows them to normally see this information.
  The Intelligence Committee would already know the kinds of things 
that I would intend to discuss this evening.
  Ms. WATSON. Reclaiming my time, I asked the Chair, and the Chair is 
unaware of what this information might be. I am continuing to object 
until I am satisfied that this meeting is necessary in secrecy and why 
it didn't go to the Intelligence Committee first.
  I don't feel comfortable being manipulated with scare tactics.
  Why is it this didn't come forward prior to voting on FISA?
  Mr. HOYER. Will my friend yield?
  Ms. WATSON. I yield.
  Mr. HOYER. I thank my good friend for yielding. What I think the whip 
is saying, the Whip came to me earlier today, said he wanted to discuss 
information which the Intelligence Committee has, which the broad reach 
of the Members do not have, but he did not want to, he did not feel he 
could discuss that in open session.
  The rules provide for the whip to make a motion to do that. That will 
then be a relatively lengthy process. The whip and I discussed this on 
his representation that he had information that he felt, in good 
conscience, he could not divulge, not because it's not in the bosom of 
the Intelligence Committees or, frankly, maybe the Judiciary Committee, 
which has been cleared, but because he felt it was information that was 
not releasable.
  What we have done is reached an agreement that makes it very clear 
that there are very short parameters for this discussion and debate.
  I want to say that I, generally, have not been here as long as Mr. 
Obey, but my experience on these kinds of sessions, whether they are 
briefings, has been the same as his. I have rarely learned something 
that I couldn't read in U.S. News & World Report or Time the day before 
or the day after.
  But having said that, we have tried to reach an agreement with the 
minority that would facilitate the receiving of information which many 
Members, not the Intelligence members or the Judiciary members, but 
many Members have not had available to them and could not be discussed 
in open session.
  I thank the gentlelady for yielding.
  Ms. WATSON. I just want to end this with this: I went over to the 
Chair of Intelligence. I said, Do you know about this? He said, No. He 
can speak for himself. But why at this time are we given information 
that is supposed to be so strategic we have to do it before we take the 
vote on FISA? I smell something, and I do not like to be manipulated.
  Madam Speaker, I withdraw my reservation.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Are there further objections?
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Madam Speaker, I reserve the right to 
  Madam Speaker, listening to this discussion and the minority whip, as 
we have gathered a number of overlays of a discussion, people who are 
frustrated by the idea of a secret session.
  Mr. Majority Leader, I am always interested in Members having the 
full understanding of the challenges that they face. It is important to 
know that the chairman of the Judiciary Committee and chairman of the 
Intelligence Committee made every opportunity for Members to engage in 
materials or to utilize materials that they might find helpful in this 
discussion on the FISA bill. Certainly members of the two committees, 
of which I am a member of the Judiciary Committee, had intense 
opportunity and, of course, meetings in the appropriate place to be 
able to garner information.
  To the minority whip, I think what I have heard from Members is a 
degree of confusion and opposition at the same time. We do understand 
that majority leader has been most gracious in cooperating with Members 
who are unready, but our difficulty is that it seems as if it is a tool 
to delay our full discussion on FISA.
  I would ask the first question of whether that is the case. Then the 
other part of it is: There are a number of Members who have already 
indicated that they will not be present. I am disappointed in that, not 
in the Members, but in their concern of being held accountable when 
they debate the question on the floor tomorrow as to why they have said 
a statement or not said a statement, whether it's relevant or whether 
it is in this discussion today.
  The first question: Is this a tool to delay us from the ultimate 
business that the people of America want us to engage in is to pass a 
FISA bill from this floor?
  I yield to the gentleman.
  Mr. BLUNT. I thank the gentlelady for yielding. I would say it is not 
intended for that but, in fact, to further amplify our ability to have 
that discussion tomorrow as we thoughtfully reflect on information. You 
couldn't talk about the information but you could talk about your 
reflections on things that you now know other Members are discussing. I 
think it helps that.
  In terms of FISA, the rule allows for 20 minutes to the entire 
Intelligence Committee to discuss this issue and 40 minutes for 
  I just think this provides for a fuller moment for the Members to 
think about, talk about, and discuss some specific information at the 
secret level that otherwise would not have a chance to be discussed 
before we move forward with this vote tomorrow.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Reclaiming my time, Mr. Majority Leader, on 
a very detailed explanation of why we should do this; however, there 
are gaping holes in the explanation of why we should do this, the 
timing of it. I think you are being enormously cooperative. I think 
it's important for the minority that ask for a privilege to be given a 
  Mr. Leader, I am concerned, if I might yield to you again, the two-
edged sword that Members want to be vigorous in their discussion and 
want to be open minded, if they participate in this closed session, 
closed to the American people, the lights out, in essence, questions 
about the constitutionality, not because it might not have that basis, 
but others may question it because it is so unique, three times since 
  What is the standard, what is the criteria for Members' discussion in 
a closed session and then the Member going to the floor tomorrow and 
wanting to be within the realm of the rules of debate tomorrow, want to 
make the right decision, and now may be caught in a two-edged sword?

[[Page H1696]]

  It should not be that a Member has to not come tonight to be fully 
briefed, as Mr. Blunt seems to think we need to be, and then be in the 
crosshairs tomorrow when we need to have a full debate in front of the 
American people.
  Madam Speaker, I yield to the gentleman.
  Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentlelady for yielding.
  For my part, I believe I will be fully engaged on this piece of 
legislation, on its merits, what it does to facilitate the interception 
of communications which may prove dangerous to our country and at the 
same time protect our Constitution.
  I don't think I am going to be constrained in any way.
  Now, what I will be constrained on saying is that, obviously, I have 
had the opportunity and taken the opportunity to go to the committee to 
review information in the bosom of the committee and to make 
conclusions on that. I will not discuss that specific information, but 
there is, most of the information that I have, having done that, is 
from the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, 
other news magazines, from articles that I have read. I frankly think 
that no Member is going to have to be confused about debating the 
merits or the demerits of the issue that will be before us tomorrow 
based upon this secret session.
  Now, the gentleman, as I say, has made a request that he has 
information that he wants to discuss which he believes ought not to be 
discussed in public. I think everybody, not in public in the sense of 
depriving the American people from the information, but information 
that we need to hold close so that it is not used by those who would 
cause us harm, without speculating as to what that information may be. 
I frankly think that every Member will be able to make that judgment.
  But, more than that, we have discussed this, and we hope to have, and 
I forget who it was who was mentioned, very appropriately, we hope 
being prepared now is directive from a nonpartisan source of security 
people. This is, after all, a rule of the House that is being pursued. 
It could be pursued by motion, but it's being pursued by unanimous 
consent. Doing so, we believe, sets the parameters more appropriately.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Reclaiming my time, this point was made 
earlier, but I don't think that it has been clearly enunciated for 
Members. What you are suggesting is that Members can participate in 
this discussion. Unfortunately, closed to the American people sounds 
ominous, and it is unfortunate that we have reached this point, because 
I do believe that Members have the individual opportunity to visit the 
Intelligence information, as was made possible by both the Intelligence 
Committee and the Judiciary Committee.
  But I think it's important to note that a Member could be on the 
floor this evening and review materials and be in debate, be on the 
floor tomorrow and say, in my studied opinion on the discussions of 
last evening, I believe so and so, meaning that I think this FISA bill 
is solid on its four corners, it is protected, it is constitutional, it 
protects those individuals covered by it, it gives the American people 
the sense of national security but also the protection of their civil 
  They will at least be able to refer in that general term, is that my 
understanding? They are not completely silenced from even referring to 
the fact that they were in a secret session last evening or they were 
looking at materials in a secret condition.
  Mr. HOYER. Would the gentlelady yield?
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. I am happy to yield.
  Mr. HOYER. I don't want to go further than I am absolutely confident 
on the response to this. However, let me say that I believe that all 
the information that Members need to debate this bill tomorrow is 
currently in their possession and will be elicited in public debate.
  The minority whip does not believe that. He believes there is 
additional information.
  I think Members, I would not want to leave the impression with any of 
our Members that somebody had information that they believed was very 
important to the security of our country that they were precluded from 
giving to Members. That is why we pursued this objective.
  As I say, the rules provide for that. But in terms of the debate, my 
suggestion is, I think, particularly the gentlewoman who serves so ably 
on the Judiciary Committee has all the information, and she has some 
information she knows she can't speak of because she has received 
briefings as a member of the Judiciary Committee.

                              {time}  1900

  But I believe there will be no constraints.
  However, the constraint I think is you would not say, out of a secret 
session, and none of us should say out of a secret session, that X, Y 
and Z was said in a secret session, or that I got this information from 
a secret session. And if you did not have that information but for 
being in that session, my advice would be not to tell that information. 
But my view has been this has been a very wide, public debate; and I 
don't have any problems debating this vigorously tomorrow, as I intend 
to do because I think the bill is a good bill and protects both our 
intelligence ability and our Constitution. So I will not feel 
constrained at all. But I will not say I will not tell information that 
I received in this secret session because I don't think I am going to 
need to at all.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. I yield to the minority whip.
  Mr. BLUNT. I would just say obviously some Members were here and 
others were not when we had these sessions, five times since 1825, or 
three times since 1979, depending on how you want to use those numbers. 
My understanding is that you constantly in your efforts with the 
information you have as a member of the Judiciary Committee know where 
that line is. And you can't refer to the secret session, although you 
can clearly refer to any information that happened to be discussed 
there that was generally available before that session. You just don't 
say that it came out of the secret session. And the gentlelady does 
that with frequency based on her level of current clearance, and you 
know that line better than most Members of the House do and how to do 
  This would be the same kind of source of information that you would 
use in your other access, and it is a secret session under the rules on 
the basis that the rules then provide that what is there is not later 
to be discussed.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Reclaiming my time, I want it to be clear 
that a Member can rise on the floor and say, having been in a secret 
session last evening, not recounting what was in the secret session, 
but I find that my position remains the same in my support of the bill 
or my opposition to the bill. One could say that.
  Members are going to be coming to the floor and some Member may want 
to say tomorrow that they were here. They would not be reciting what 
they heard. They would simply say what they heard did not move them or 
it moved them. Can someone not say tomorrow they were in the session 
without recounting what you heard?
  Mr. HOYER. I think the fact of attending the session is not secret. 
The answer is ``yes.''
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Having not been in a session, Members don't 
know the parameters. Minimally they can say they were here, and what 
they heard, which they don't recount; they can proceed in their debate 
on how they review the bill. But they don't recount what was heard.
  I yield.
  Mr. HOYER. I think every Member will in fact say based upon the 
information they have, as I will say and as you will say, some of that 
information is held close. Some is not. And we will make our decisions 
based upon the information we have. So I think the gentlelady is 
absolutely correct.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. I would be happy to yield to the gentleman 
from Ohio.
  Mr. KUCINICH. This reflects on what our distinguished majority leader 
said, Congresswoman Jackson-Lee. In the House under rule XVII, clause 
9, it is true that any Member could ask for a secret session, claim 
they have information. That is a privilege. Furthermore, under rule X, 
clause 11, and then a subparagraph, the Select Committee

[[Page H1697]]

on Intelligence may move to hold a secret session to determine whether 
classified information held by the committee should be made public.
  Now, we haven't seen our distinguished colleague ask for such a 
secret session, although our other distinguished colleague is 
requesting it. Now obviously since this has only been done five times 
in 182 years, five times in 182 years of this institution, it would 
seem to me that a very high bar has been reached here.
  Now my question would be, hypothetically, since any Member has the 
ability to call for a secret session, if a secret session is requested 
and the bar that one would assume that we would need to clear to 
achieve a secret session has in fact not been met, that in fact a 
secret session was called for reasons for something that was not really 
all that secret, or not evidence that was probative and weighty, but 
instead that one person may have felt. And I am not impugning my friend 
here because he may have some information.
  But generally speaking, under the rule, we can all ask for it. But, 
Mr. Hoyer, I think since you are our senior Member here who is our 
majority leader, or maybe the Parliamentarian knows, if a secret 
session is called for and the bar isn't reached, what then? What 
happens then with that secret session?
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Reclaiming my time, I would be happy to 
yield to the majority leader.
  Mr. KUCINICH. And what happens to the Member, if I may.
  Mr. HOYER. There are a lot of hypotheticals, a, I believe the 
gentleman is correct, there is a high bar. I will tell you that as 
everybody in this House knows, Mr. Blunt and I are friends. I have 
great respect for Mr. Blunt. Mr. Blunt came to me, without denigrating 
any other Member, he is a leader of his party and I accord him the 
respect of making the judgment that in fact he is going to meet that 
high bar.
  I have not interrogated him any more than I would want him to 
interrogate me on that issue. I take him at his word as a Member. Now, 
the consequence of not meeting that high bar is only that Members will 
say that a request was made that was not justified. I think that is the 
consequence. There is certainly no consequence in the rules. And, first 
of all, we would, I suppose, as a body have to judge, a, what the bar 
was and whether you met it.
  In any event, I think the gentleman understands the answer to my 
question. I respect him as the leader of his party. He has made this 
request, and we are trying to honor it, I might say, in a way that most 
fashions it so that it will be as focused and as helpful as can be.
  Mr. KUCINICH. Would the gentlelady yield?
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Reclaiming my time, I yield to the 
gentleman from Ohio.
  Mr. KUCINICH. It is my understanding relative to these proceedings in 
a secret session that the proceedings of a secret session are not 
published unless the relevant Chamber votes during the meeting or at a 
later time to release them. Then portions can be released in the 
Congressional Record. Is that right, Congressman Jackson-Lee and Mr. 
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Reclaiming my time, I yield to Mr. Hoyer.
  Mr. HOYER. The gentleman is reading from the rule and he is a very 
bright, good friend; and I am sure he read the rule accurately. So my 
presumption is that he is accurate.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. I yield to the gentleman from Ohio.
  Mr. KUCINICH. So that is the remedy, that the House could vote at 
some point to release.
  Mr. HOYER. The gentleman is absolutely correct on that observation.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Reclaiming my time, I indicate to the 
majority leader and to the minority whip just the discussion here this 
evening highlights, one, the collegiality of the relationship and the 
effort, Mr. Leader, you are making, and you are to be commended.
  But it also highlights the constitutional weakness, if you will, of 
the understanding of the Members and the whole question of what we are 
doing before the American public in a secret session.
  I would like to simply say to the American public it is not that we 
are denying you the opportunity to be fully informed. It is my 
understanding that Members are asking to debate information that may be 
classified or secret. Whether this is the right approach, I take great 
question to this, and would rather it not be.
  I think all Members have had access to materials. They can study the 
FISA bill. The good news is that the American people will have a FISA 
bill tomorrow passed by this House.
  I have a continuing reservation. However, at this time I will 
withdraw my reservation acknowledging that this is both a unique 
challenge that we are being offered and that it is possible that there 
is a better way. But I hope the debate tomorrow, in front of the eyes 
of the American people, will be vigorous and honest and straightforward 
and that a bill will be passed.
  Madam Speaker, I withdraw my reservation of objection.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Maryland?
  Mr. SCOTT of Georgia. Reserving the right to object, Madam Speaker, I 
just wanted to very briefly come down because I think we need to 
remember, first of all, that we are standing on some very hallowed 
ground here. We are standing on the grounds of the citadel of this 
Nation where some heavy prices were paid for the foundation of our 
government, the hallmark of which is openness and freedom. So when we 
take a step to close our proceedings to the American people, we are 
treading on treacherous ground.
  And so I believe, I think that it is very important, Mr. Minority 
Whip, that I ask you this question because I think you certainly need 
to answer this for those of us here and the American people, and that 
question is: Is this a political ploy? In the land of Greek mythology 
was a land called Troy, and in that land they brought a Trojan horse. 
And so when you look at the facts that have been exposed in this 
discourse this evening, you say you have information that is of high 
intelligence matter, that you are asking us to undermine the very 
hallmark and foundation of our free, open Republic to present, that has 
not even been presented to the proper channels of our Intelligence 
Committee on the eve of a vote that has been moving around these 
Chambers for well over a month.
  Here, just before we are about to go for a 2-week recess, we come 
with this mysterious information. So the question has to be answered: 
Is this a Trojan horse? Is this a political ploy? To call a meeting in 
secret to give secret information, those of us that would come have to 
abide by the secrecy, then when the vote takes place, if it doesn't go 
the way that you want it, you can say to the press, well, hey, we 
called a secret meeting. We gave them valuable information, and see 
what they did.
  It puts this whole situation in a very confounding box, and I ask you 
to answer that question. Is this not a political ploy? Is this not a 
Trojan horse? And if so, could it not be a misuse of the sanctity of 
the House of Representatives?
  Mr. BLUNT. I would say to my friend that it is not a political ploy. 
I would also say that beginning in 1978 when we passed actually the 
first Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, we set a new structure in 
place where the House of Representatives took more responsibility for 
intelligence information in the country.
  And we can talk about how many times we have done this since 1825 or 
whatever, but three times, and certainly three times after the House 
decided in 1978 to take more responsibility for the intelligence issues 
in the country, we had a discussion that I thought was possible to have 
here today.
  The bar certainly, I understand why my friends would want to raise 
the bar, but I have information that has been available to the 
Intelligence Committee that I thought the Members that have not seen 
that information would benefit from talking about.
  I haven't suggested it is at the top secret level. I haven't 
suggested it is at the program level. I have said it is at the secret 
level. That kind of information is important to discuss, I think, and 
should not be discussed in a general session, but also does not rise to

[[Page H1698]]

the kinds of things that even in a secret session of the whole House I 
don't think should be discussed.
  You know, the suggestion that somehow here the bar is that if the 
Member doesn't bring information that the entire country should know, 
the very future of the country, the essence of the country, rests on, 
that is not the determination of either a secret level of intelligence 
or a secret session.
  Nor in saying to my good friend, the majority leader, I would be glad 
to discuss this for an hour, this topic generally, based on information 
that I think would be important for all of the Members to talk about. 
Many of the Members have not seen this. It is information I think would 
be helpful.

                              {time}  1915

  I certainly can't control the discussion of the hour, the 30 minutes 
that I've said I'd be more than happy for the majority to have. I hope 
we'd both try to be positive here in creating a discussion of items on 
an issue that, after all, does relate to some of the most sensitive 
techniques and procedures in our country.
  I'm not going to talk about the highly classified parts of the 
program. I'm not going to talk about the top secret parts of the 
program that the chairman and the ranking member and others, including 
the majority leader and I am aware of. But I did have some information 
that I thought would help the debate that rose to the secret level that 
all of the Members otherwise would not hear.
  Mr. SCOTT of Georgia. But if you were, if that information rose to 
that level, Mr. Minority Leader, to that level of secrecy, then why 
would it not certainly have raised to the level that you could have 
shared it with the chairman of the Intelligence Committee?
  Mr. BLUNT. I've said three times now this was information that's been 
available to the Intelligence Committee.
  Mr. SCOTT of Georgia. What I'm saying, but the point is that you, 
yourself, had the information, but you, yourself, did not share it with 
the chairman of the committee.
  Mr. BLUNT. That is not what I said or what the record would reflect.
  Mr. HOYER. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. SCOTT of Georgia. I will yield to the majority leader.
  Mr. HOYER. The reason I stand is because again I want to explain. The 
information, I don't know the information, but the information that Mr. 
Blunt has clearly is within the bosom of the Intelligence Committee, 
and I don't know, but I presume the Judiciary Committee has had access 
to it under the President's order. What has not been done is that 
information has not been shared with the Members. It's not a question 
of the sharing with the Intelligence Committee. I understand the 
gentleman's concern. What Mr. Blunt is simply saying is he wants to 
share with the Members. He cannot share it in open session. I don't 
know what the information is, but, again, as I expressed to my friend, 
and I would hope that we would understand that at some point in time, 
we need to accord to one another the credibility. Particularly I would 
hope that he would accord to me, as the leader, credibility, and as I 
accord to him credibility on his assertion that this is something he 
wants to share with the Members, some of whom would not have had 
access. They may have had access to it, but they haven't heard it. That 
is all I think he's saying. And in that context, we have come to this 
agreement which we think, as I say, focuses and serves the concerns 
that you have legitimately raised and focuses our efforts.
  Mr. DANIEL E. LUNGREN of California. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. SCOTT of Georgia. I will yield to you.
  Mr. DANIEL E. LUNGREN of California. As a member of the Judiciary 
Committee who's read into the program, when Mr. Blunt talked to me 
about the possibility of this effort, it was in the context of how do 
we make that careful distinction, and those of us who've been read into 
the program, to try and inform the membership without violating the 
confidentiality under which we work. And the suggestion was that a 
secret session might allow for a freer discussion, while those of us 
who've been read into the program still protect the classified nature 
of the program.
  Now, I don't know if it's going to work. All I'm saying is it's no 
information that's, from my standpoint, that is unknown to other 
members of the Judiciary or the Intelligence Committee who've been read 
into the program, but it's our effort to try and find some vehicles by 
which we can inform the membership while still preserving the 
confidential status of that information. It's nothing that we have 
within our bosom that no one else has. It is information that we're 
trying to find a vehicle to allow the other membership to be informed. 
And I hope that helps the gentleman.
  Mr. SCOTT of Georgia. My final concern is, and I will let this rest, 
is that after tomorrow when we read the accounts of this, or when we go 
home and the American people ask us that question, the issue is going 
to be, Was it worth it? Was it, did it reach that level to really 
undermine the openness in government?
  Our Nation is littered with examples of secrecy when it should have 
been openness. And as we've seen from those who've been here long 
before I have, who've gone through these previous times, in the five 
times and the most recent two or three times that some of those that 
spoke have been here, it proved to not reach that bar. And I'd just 
say, these are hallowed grounds. This is a precious country, the 
centerpiece of which is openness, and if we keep tipping away at this, 
we undermine the very fabric of our country. And I just submit to you, 
Mr. Leader, this is really what's at stake tonight.

  Mr. BLUNT. Would the gentleman yield?
  Mr. SCOTT of Georgia. Yes.
  Mr. BLUNT. I would just say to my friend that the information that I 
had hoped we would discuss today and still hope we will be able to 
discuss today is not, is information that most of the Members do not 
have and have not had access to. And I think our respect for each other 
as we approach this important decision would indicate that a further 
discussion, and my view was a discussion that could not be had because 
of the nature of some of the implications of what we do in an open 
session, would benefit the debate and the final decision at whatever 
point that decision will be made.
  We do know tomorrow when we leave, the Senate's leaving and there 
will be no decision made that becomes law this week. But my thought was 
that all of the Members would benefit from a discussion based on 
information at a level that could not be disclosed in full debate and a 
discussion that I hoped would actually see the Members respond with 
appreciation for each other and our ability to talk about one or two 
items that were secret and what those items might mean, rather than 
say, Did that rise to the level of our time?
  I don't know what all Members had planned to do tonight, but I 
suspect that you could argue, if you wanted to, that that discussion 
will lead, will be well worth the time. I also suspect if you don't 
want to, you could argue that it doesn't. But my intention was not to 
create animus among the Members, but to try to create an opportunity 
where all of our Members, as they have this ongoing discussion about 
foreign intelligence, have just a little broader window. I think it's 
important we all understand.
  I'm not proposing we open the entire window. I'm not proposing that 
we go to levels that we probably even among 431 of us who respect each 
other would want to go to. I thought it would be helpful. We've already 
debated whether to have this discussion far longer than I had 
anticipated the discussion taking. But I respect the Member's concern 
about something that we've only done three times in 30 years, haven't 
done very many times in the history of the Congress, and we may decide 
that the expectation of this discussion becomes so high that no Member 
would ever even consider saying, you know, I saw something here that I 
think we, it is truly secret so I can't talk about it in the full 
session. I think we should discuss it in a bigger session.
  But if Members begin to think that that has to be that somebody has 
the plans, and we didn't know it, to nuclear weapons before it's worth 
having that discussion, we'll never have that discussion. That's not 
what I'm proposing at all, nor was I anticipating

[[Page H1699]]

setting any kind of condition that my friends would have a problem 
with. I truly believe, after months of looking at this issue, that if 
the Members understood, even at the entry level, some of the problems 
it creates not to have a program in place that deals with these 
problems, the Members would reach a different conclusion. It may turn 
out that I am wrong on that, and I may take the advice of others who 
were here 30 years ago when we had three of these and decide this is 
never worth advancing again to my colleagues; but could we have a 
discussion in private about things that we can only discuss in private.
  The option here is to discuss it in private or not to discuss it at 
all. And if my friends want to set a level of that discussion so high 
that if a Member walks out of here and says, well, the world wouldn't 
have survived without that session, we're never going to have a session 
where any more of us know the secret level items available to the 
Congress than know those items right now.
  I was trying to be expansive in my sense of this discussion, rather 
than restrictive. By the end of the day, I'm beginning to think that 
may have been a mistake, but I'm still optimistic that we can have a 
discussion that the Members will think, you know, I don't know what I 
intended to do with the hour tonight, but that was actually as valuable 
as whatever it was I expected to do. And I would hope that would be the 
decision the Members would make, was this a more valuable hour for me 
as I looked to the future of these programs than the hour I might have 
spent doing whatever you would have been doing if you hadn't been here 
as Members of Congress talking about things that, if they're going to 
be talked about, can only be talked about in this way.
  Mr. SCOTT of Georgia. Well, just finally, in conclusion, I just want 
to say that I know that I speak for every single Member of the House of 
Representatives, both Democrat and Republican, when I say that foremost 
in all of our minds, foremost is the security of the United States of 
America, and foremost in our minds is that we do that in the context of 
the foundations of this country, which are freedom and openness.
  We walk a very delicate balance this evening. Let us hope we walk it 
  I withdraw my reservation.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Maryland?
  There was no objection.


[Congressional Record: March 13, 2008 (House)]
[Page H1699]                      


  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair desires to read to the Members the 
contents of clause 9 of rule XVII:

                             Secret Session

  Whenever confidential communications are received from the President 
of the United States, or whenever the Speaker or any Member shall 
inform the House that he has communications which he believes ought to 
be kept secret for the present, the House shall be cleared of all 
persons except the Members and officers thereof, and so continue during 
the reading of such communications, the debates and the proceedings 
thereon, unless otherwise ordered by the House.
  The galleries of the House Chamber will be cleared of all persons and 
the House Chamber will be cleared of all persons except Members of the 
House and those officers and employees specified by the Speaker whose 
attendance on the floor is essential to the functioning of the secret 
session of the House. All proceedings in the House during such 
consideration shall be kept secret until otherwise ordered by the 
  In addition to the provisions of clause 13 of rule XXIII, which is 
applicable to all Members, officers and employees, every employee and 
officer present in the Chamber during the secret session will sign an 
oath of secrecy, which is in the Speaker's Ceremonial Office, room H-
  The Chair will declare a recess long enough for this order to be 
carried out.
  The Chair will ask all Members to leave the Chamber temporarily until 
the security check is completed.
  Three bells will be rung approximately 15 minutes before the House 
reconvenes for the secret session.


[Congressional Record: March 13, 2008 (House)]
[Page H1699]

                             SECRET SESSION

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the previous order of the House, 
the Chair declares the House in secret session.
  (House proceedings held in secret session.)
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The secret session is dissolved.