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House Holds Rare 'Closed Session'

UPDATE 4:12 PM ET: House Democratic leaders have agreed to the GOP's request that the chamber go into secret session today to discuss terrorist surveillance legislation. The session will last one hour, with the time equally divided between the majority and the minority.

ORIGINAL POST: House Republicans plan to call later this afternoon for the chamber to hold only its sixth "closed session" in history to discuss updating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Democrats have not yet decided whether they will support the move, which requires a floor vote, saying only that the idea is "under discussion."

Such closed or "secret" sessions occur only when members want to be able to reference classified information during a Congressional debate. In this case, Republicans want to use the session to make their point -- which Democrats strongly dispute -- that Congress' failure to update FISA is hurting intelligence operations.

The House has not gone into closed session since July 1983, when it did so to discuss U.S. support for the Contras in Nicaragua.

In September 2006, then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) tried to force the House into secret session to review a national intelligence estimate on global terrorism, but her effort failed on a party-line vote. The Senate has gone into closed session dozens of times in the past, mainly because it only takes one Senator to trigger such a session in that chamber. (A full list of past closed sessions in both the House and Senate is available in this Congressional Research Service report.)

Because it's been more than two decades since one was held in the House, members and staff are a bit fuzzy on how the mechanics of a closed session would work. If the House votes to go into secret session, the House floor would be cleared and electronically swept for listening devices. The galleries for both visitors and press would be cleared, Capitol Police officers would be posted at all the doors to the chamber and C-SPAN would be unable to broadcast the proceedings.

Republicans are expected to make their call for a closed session after the House finished voting on the fiscal 2009 budget resolution, sometime after 4 p.m. Democrats had hoped to complete both the budget bill and their latest version of FISA today, but a secret session might push the FISA vote to Friday.

By Ben Pershing  |  March 13, 2008; 2:23 PM ET
Categories:  Agenda , House  
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Comments

In that report you link, the five closed sessions listed are "since 1812." A note below says, "Prior to 1812, the House met frequently in closed session." Just so you know, this would not actually be the sixth closed session, it would be the sixth closed session since 1812.

Posted by: JohnOfCharleston | March 13, 2008 3:37 PM | Report abuse

What do you expect from Repukes?

They are ALL crooks. They should be RICOed.

And there's obviously no honor among thieves.

Posted by: Tom3 | March 13, 2008 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Repukes are LIARS. The illegal wiretaps are just like the FBI National Security Letters, they are NOT being used to fight terrorism, they are being used to go after ordinary Americans.

This is an abuse of the Constitution and our freedom and there is absolutely no justification whatsoever for it.

Repukes are TRAITORS to our Constitution.

Anybody got a rope?

Posted by: Tom3 | March 13, 2008 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Is this the last meeting before the senate and house surrender their checks and balances to the executive branch?

Posted by: Stan Barkley | March 13, 2008 5:18 PM | Report abuse

It would seem that having the House go into closed session to debate this bill, so that _actual_ classified information can be presented, rather than simply allegations, conjecture, and speculation, is a vigorous and appropriate use of the House's ability to check the executive branch. I fail to see how ensuring a debate on the merits of the issue--merits that, because they include classified information, must be maintained as such--means that "Repukes" are liars, crooks or, worst of all, should be lynched, per Tom3's post.

Posted by: J | March 13, 2008 5:27 PM | Report abuse

It is a sign of the times when the republicans look to close the doors on their activities. why? Because there are rles in place that would allow law enforcement and intelligence agencies to listen in on conversations.

However, in an attempt to bypass ALL laws which were put into place to protect American citizens from the abuse of power of the rich and powerful, the republican party has gone over to the dark side and are now blatantly overreaching while breaking the law. THEY are America's worst enemies and George W. bush is the clear and present danger to our nation. Funny how HE dosen't have any military records, and loses his admin.'s emails, but WE are fair game. Why he hasn't been impeached and jailed is a complete mystery.

I, for one cannot except that he is some kind of royalty and hope that he leaves office the same way he entered it... with his car being chased by people throwing rotten eggs.

Posted by: Toy | March 13, 2008 5:29 PM | Report abuse

This is the type of debate that needs to be done in the publics view. Secret closed door sessions of Congress breed conspiracy theories and undermine public confidence in what is supposed to be the People's branch. Pelosi has once again failed the American people by failing to lead.

Posted by: Angry Liberaltarian | March 13, 2008 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Why do you even print these comments? Most are inarticulate, hateful drivel.

Posted by: Charles Wright | March 13, 2008 6:00 PM | Report abuse

What would be nice would be for the House to release an unclassified synopsis of the meeting detailing if actual new information has been brought--not the actual information mind, just a rough outline of it-up or just a rehash of the demagoguery that has played out for the last seven years.

Posted by: Tom Fiore | March 13, 2008 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Lloyd Doggett!!

The precedential nature of this closed door session is anathema to an open democracy.

The debate so far has been gummed up on immunity for the telecomms. The American people have a right to know what their branch of government discusses.

This is a tragedy and a farce. Our House has failed us, AGAIN.

Posted by: Angry Liberaltarian | March 13, 2008 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Serrano has a great point...any Member voting in favor of the secret session becomes a target for ouster in November.

Posted by: AL | March 13, 2008 6:33 PM | Report abuse

"Why do you even print these comments?"

Because the comments are not moderated, so whatever someone submits makes it on to your screen. Note, CW, that your comments appeared almost instantaneously after you clicked submit.

Posted by: tj | March 13, 2008 6:56 PM | Report abuse

If the House can discuss these things in closed session, I'm at a loss to understand why courts can't do the same, especially since the folks who seem to want the session also seem to believe that courts can't be trusted to rule on these matters.

Posted by: Brett | March 13, 2008 8:47 PM | Report abuse

Women of America: time for some spring gardening! Protest King George by trimming your bush and dropping the fur in a ziplock bag and leaving it around Washington.
Freedom Fur Amerika!

Posted by: Cindy McCain | March 13, 2008 9:34 PM | Report abuse

This isn't about terrorism, this is about more shredding of our Constitution.

The Democrats should spill the beans when the session is over.

Posted by: kevinschmidt | March 13, 2008 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Do you people posting this nonsense realize the House is controlled by Democrats?? For God's sake, stop spewing bilge and start thinking for yourself. Believe it or not the Daily Show is not real news . .

Posted by: Dan | March 13, 2008 10:42 PM | Report abuse

I think they are confessing who was client # 1-9 with a preist inside the house!

Posted by: LI | March 13, 2008 10:56 PM | Report abuse

This closed session is being held to present classified information like Cheney's trip to the Middle East is to broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. In both cases, it's an opportunity for the GOP to use blackmail and intimidation to get what they want outside of the purview of the American public.

Posted by: danahatch | March 14, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

The word is that in addition, all this was in discussion:
Not only did members discuss new surveillance provisions as
was the publicly stated reason for the closed door session, they
also discussed:

1. the imminent collapse of the U.S. economy to occur by
September 2008,

2. the imminent collapse of US federal government finances
by February 2009,

3. the possibility of Civil War inside the USA as a result of
the collapse,

4. advance round-ups of "insurgent U.S. citizens" likely to
move against the government,

5. the detention of those rounded-up at "REX 84" camps
constructed throughout the USA,

6. the possibility of retaliation against members of Congress
for the collapses,

7. the location of "safe facilities" for members of Congress
and their families to reside during expected massive civil
unrest,

8. the necessary and unavoidable merger of the United States
with Canada (for its natural resources) and with Mexico (for its
cheap labor pool),

9. the issuance of a new currency - THE AMERO - for all three
nations as the proposed solution to the coming economic
armageddon.

Members of Congress were FORBIDDEN to reveal what was discussed.
Several are so furious and concerned about the future of the contry, they
have begun leaking info. More details coming later today and over the
weekend. SPREAD THE WORD!!!

Posted by: Listener | March 15, 2008 1:34 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: votenic | March 17, 2008 10:49 PM | Report abuse

The word is that in addition, all this was in discussion:
Not only did members discuss new surveillance provisions as
was the publicly stated reason for the closed door session, they
also discussed:

1. the imminent collapse of the U.S. economy to occur by
September 2008,

2. the imminent collapse of US federal government finances
by February 2009,

3. the possibility of Civil War inside the USA as a result of
the collapse,

4. advance round-ups of "insurgent U.S. citizens" likely to
move against the government,

5. the detention of those rounded-up at "REX 84" camps
constructed throughout the USA,

6. the possibility of retaliation against members of Congress
for the collapses,

7. the location of "safe facilities" for members of Congress
and their families to reside during expected massive civil
unrest,

8. the necessary and unavoidable merger of the United States
with Canada (for its natural resources) and with Mexico (for its
cheap labor pool),

9. the issuance of a new currency - THE AMERO - for all three
nations as the proposed solution to the coming economic
armageddon.

Members of Congress were FORBIDDEN to reveal what was discussed.
Several are so furious and concerned about the future of the contry, they
have begun leaking info. More details coming later today and over the
weekend. SPREAD THE WORD!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 26, 2008 3:08 AM | Report abuse

i have a feeling tom3 has no idea what hes talking about, or is just blind to see that the majority of people in power are corrupt, and this hasnt changed in thousands of years. for the record, ron paul (rep.) is the most convincing person around if all he really wants is money and power.

Posted by: pesch | March 27, 2008 9:35 PM | Report abuse

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