House Democrats are livid after the Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, announced that US intel agencies would be pulling the plug on in-person congressional briefings on election security, and will instead be providing written updates ahead of November.
In a verbal notification to the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Ratcliffe argued that the process will prevent the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive information, according to The Hill.
Ratcliffe followed up with Friday letters addressed to top House and Senate lawmakers in which he emphasized that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) plans to continue Congressional oversight efforts.
"The ODNI will primarily meet its obligation to keep Congress fully and currently informed leading into the Presidential election through written finished intelligence products," read the letters, which were obtained by The Hill.
"I believe this approach helps ensure, to the maximum extent possible, that the information ODNI provides the Congress in support of your oversight responsibilities on elections security, foreign malign influence, and election interference is not misunderstood nor politicized. It will also better protect our sources and methods and most sensitive intelligence from additional unauthorized disclosures or misuse."
Democrats are not happy
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Adam Schiff railed against the move, suggesting that it would help conceal public knowledge of foreign interference in US politics.
"This is a shocking abdication of its lawful responsibility to keep the Congress currently informed, and a betrayal of the public’s right to know how foreign powers are trying to subvert our democracy. This intelligence belongs to the American people, not the agencies which are its custodian," reads a joint statement.
Pelosi and Schiff threatened that they will "consider the full range of tools available to the House to compel compliance" if the ODNI does not resume briefings, claiming it is a "shameful" attempt by the Trump administration to "withhold election-related information from Congress and the American people at the precise moment that greater transparency and accountability is required."
CNN first reported the shift from in-person briefings to written updates.
The announcement comes after William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, released a statement detailing election security threats. -The Hill
Former acting Director of National Intelligence, Richard Grenell, welcomed the move - tweeting on Saturday: "Career intelligence officials came to me to say they didn’t want to brief the Hill because the partial information leaks and manipulation of their words were detrimental to their careers," adding "This is a very good reform."
Career intelligence officials came to me to say they didn’t want to brief the Hill because the partial information leaks and manipulation of their words were detrimental to their careers.— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) August 29, 2020
This is a very good reform. https://t.co/oBOA2sXNPE