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Rubio Push Intel Leaders on Access to Classified Documents
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) discussed the responsibility of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to conduct oversight of the intelligence community and the need for cooperation on classified documents during an open hearing.
- “A special counsel cannot have veto authority over Congress’ ability to do its job. It just can’t happen. It won’t happen. ” – Senator Rubio
Click here for video and read a lightly edited transcript below.
Every agency of our government comes before Congress. They have oversight committees. They have public hearings. Questions are asked. People have to answer them in public. People have to testify.
The unique aspect of what your agencies do is, by necessity it has to be secret. That’s the work of intelligence. So how do you conduct oversight over something like that? For a long time, there really wasn’t any congressional oversight, until the mid-1970s when committees uncovered all kinds of situations involving the intelligence communities…. The result was the creation of this committee and our counterpart in the House.
It comes down to a handful of members in the House and Senate who are entrusted with conducting oversight to ensure that not only are the intelligence agencies focused on the right things, but are doing it in a way that protects both civil liberties and our national security….
That’s our role, and it’s one we have to play very carefully and one that’s really important for the country. Because we need what you do. But we also understand that if left unsupervised, any agency, at any time, especially ones with these extraordinary powers, can do things that are really troubling and end up actually threatening these agencies’ ability to continue to work.
Now, getting to these classified documents, I want to just do this hypothetical: If tomorrow I take a folder full of classified information outside the building inappropriately, for whatever reason, there’s going to be an investigation, and two things are going to happen, two individual tracks.
Track number one is, I violated the law. A potential crime has been committed because information that’s classified was removed from its proper setting. The result is that there’s going to be an investigation. It could involve the criminal justice system…. Obviously, when it comes to former presidents, it may require a special counsel, but generally it’s the U.S. Attorney that’s going to look at that and figure that part of it out.
That’s not our oversight, and that’s not our job to interfere in that. Separate from that is the job the intelligence agencies have of assessing “Okay, this is the information that was stored inappropriately. Here are the risks to the country if that information was seen by someone who shouldn’t have seen it, and here is what we’re doing to mitigate that risk.”
How can we possibly conduct oversight over A) whether you’ve assigned the proper risk assessment, and B) whether the mitigation is appropriate—how can we possibly do that if we don’t know what we’re talking about? That’s really the situation that we’re at right now.
Undoubtedly, the information that was found in all three sites are things that we would have had access to. Unless we can identify them, we can’t begin to: A) opine over whether or not the risk assessment is accurate, and B) whether the mitigation that’s been assigned is appropriate. We can’t do our job.
A special counsel cannot have veto authority over Congress’s ability to do its job. It just can’t happen. It won’t happen. [If this continues,] it will change the nature of the relationship between this committee [and the intelligence community]. I don’t want it to get to that, and it shouldn’t get to that. But this is going to be addressed one way or the other.”