If we tell you, will you shut up?

Reversing course, the White House says it will brief more members of Congress on its telephone surveillance programs.

Published May 17, 2006 1:42PM (EDT)

As the Los Angeles Times reports today, the White House is flip-flopping on the question of who's entitled to briefings about its telephone surveillance programs. After resisting for months, the White House will now brief all members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, the paper says.

One reason for the about-face? Republicans on the Hill are telling the White House that Michael Hayden will face some unpleasant confirmation hearings if members of the Senate Intelligence Committee haven't been briefed first on the programs he oversaw at the National Security Agency. But the Times suggests that there's another reason, too: Members of Congress who have been briefed about the programs will then have been entrusted with classified information they aren't supposed to reveal, thereby making it harder for them to criticize the administration in public. As one senior Republican Senate aide says, hopefully: "When they know about it, they are obligated to be quiet."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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