"The NSA Wasn't Forthcoming," So a Computer Security Expert Briefed Congress Instead

A computer cryptography expert revealed that he met Thursday with members of Congress to explain Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency because “the NSA wasn’t forthcoming.”

In a brief post on his blog, Bruce Schneier said that he had held a roundtable discussion with six House members, organized by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), to discuss the NSA’s activities.

Schneier, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, co-authored a Guardian article with reporter Glenn Greenwald on the NSA’s attempts to hack an anonymizing web service and has taken a peek at many of the documents that Snowden leaked.

“Lofgren asked me to brief her and a few Representatives on the NSA,” Schneier wrote. “She said that the NSA wasn’t forthcoming about their activities, and they wanted me—as someone with access to the Snowden documents—to explain to them what the NSA was doing. Of course I’m not going to give details on the meeting, except to say that it was candid and interesting. And that it’s extremely freaky that Congress has such a difficult time getting information out of the NSA that they have to ask me. I really want oversight to work better in this country.”

Attendees included Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), the lead House sponsor of the most prominent NSA reform bill in Congress, as well as agency critic Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).

A Lofgren spokesman confirmed that the meeting took place Thursday, just a day before President Barack Obama’s scheduled speech on NSA reforms. The agency did not immediately return a request for comment.

Schneier did not go into more detail about what was discussed, except to note that the lawmakers wanted to talk about “top secret documents that had not been made public.”

“This really was an extraordinary thing,” he added.

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.