|A photographer is photographed as she aims her lens through a crack in the doors|
during a closed session of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill.
As our lawmakers launch into the 113th Congress, I found myself examining hearing schedules for a key panel, the Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence. I noticed that in the recently concluded 112th session, the intel group scheduled 108 meetings. A couple were hearings to confirm nominees for Federal positions, such as, David Petraeus to direct the CIA. Most hearings, though, simply were described as "Intelligence Matters."
Among the 108 scheduled meetings, seven confirmation hearings and one general "state of the world" session were open to the public. The remaining 101 were closed to all but the committee members, their staff, and witnesses.
I understand and support the notion that matters of national security should be discussed on a need-to-know basis, and that few people need to know, for example, the tick-tock on building a HUMINT net in a strategically placed locale. But who needs to know the precise time and place of these discussions?
Every time the Senate intel committee held a secret hearing during the 112th Congress, the group announced the time, the building, and room number on its public website.
Is this what we do in an open society? Is this okay? Or is it foolhardy to alert anyone with an Internet connection that vital, secret information will be discussed by known individuals at a set location? Yes, I know that you cannot blithely walk inside the Senate's Hart building and crash a closed hearing. But once you're past the entry checkpoint, what's to stop you from traipsing along the hall to the hearing room, and peeking through a gap in the doors? Or infiltrating the far less guarded Senate offices?
I am curious to hear others' thoughts on whether secret sessions should be kept - well, secret.