There was a classified meeting for Senators wanting to learn more about the National Security Agency's PRISM program from the top security officials, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and NSA chief Keith Alexander, but attendance was sparse. Less than half of the Senate attended the meeting. "Only 47 of 100 senators attended the 2:30 briefing, leaving dozens of chairs in the secure meeting room empty," the Hill reports. The meeting was classified so we don't know who, exactly, decided to play hooky. The only senator who confirmed their attendance was Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein. She really had no choice, given her position, and she was furious about the low turnout. "It’s hard to get this story out. Even now we have this big briefing — we’ve got Alexander, we’ve got the FBI, we’ve got the Justice Department, we have the FISA Court there, we have Clapper there — and people are leaving," she told the Hill. So that's one name down — only 99 more to go.
The Senate wrapped up its final vote around noon on Thursday. Apparently the majority of Senators opted to skip the classified briefing scheduled for a few hours later in favor of departing Washington for some extra family time during the long weekend. Many senators were scheduled for luncheons or events that day around Washington but it's next to impossible to verify whether they made it back on time for the meeting. Or, alternatively, if they went straight for the airport.
As the PRISM scandal racks up more and more headlines, and the President's critics get louder and louder, this meeting will likely become the focus of intense scrutiny. Speak out against the administration's surveillance techniques? You bet this meeting's attendance record will be cross-checked as a first line of defense. Here's hoping those who played hooky know
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