I was hoping to watch Under Secretary Beers and Deputy Under Secretary Reitinger appear before the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee to discuss the National Protection and Programs Directorate FY 2012 budget request this afternoon. Unfortunately, some time between my blog on Saturday announcing this hearing and 11:30 this morning the decision was made to close this hearing to allow the discussion of classified information.
I am sure that NPPD has plenty of classified/sensitive data that should only be presented to Congress behind closed doors, but I am kind of surprised that the initial budget appearance for NPPD is a closed hearing. This would be more typical of an intelligence agency budget hearing.
Actually, the more I think about it the odder this becomes. There are no ‘black’ programs (one would hope) being run out of NPPD so there are no classified programs to be addressed in the budget. There may be classified intelligence involving programs, but that should not have a major impact on the budgetary process. Much of the information provided by covered facilities to the programs managed under the Directorate is unclassified but sensitive (SSI or CVI for example), but again, that should not have a major effect on the budgetary process.
It is not unusual for the answer or portion of an answer to a direct question by a committee member to touch on classified information. Typically the witness demurs from answering that question in open session and offers to provide that information in writing, in a private session, or in a separate closed session for the whole subcommittee depending on who is actually interested in the answer. To have the entire initial session closed is very strange and very suspicious.
Even if Beers had live intelligence information about an imminent attack that would not be presented to this Sub-Committee and certainly not in budget hearing for the next fiscal year. This is just too strange. My friends worried about black helicopters might have some ideas….