A Secret Session of the House of Representatives

“Since 1830, the House has met behind closed doors only three times,” according to the Congressional Research Service: “in 1979 to discuss the Panama Canal, in 1980 to discuss Central American assistance, and in 1983 to discuss U.S. support for paramilitary operations in Nicaragua.”

On March 13, the House went into secret session once more to consider classified matters concerning the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. After some extended discussion of the unusual practice, followed by a security check, public access to the proceedings was barred.

For related background see “Secret Sessions of the House and Senate” (pdf), Congressional Research Service, updated May 25, 2007, and “Secret Sessions of Congress: A Brief Historical Overview” (pdf), updated May 30, 2007.

No Responses to “A Secret Session of the House of Representatives”

  1. jhm March 19, 2008 at 9:53 AM #

    Are there records of secret session which become declassified after a certain time has passes, or other conditions have been met?

  2. Steven Aftergood March 19, 2008 at 10:09 AM #

    Good question. There are no provisions for automatic declassification or disclosure of such records, assuming that they still exist. If they are ever to be disclosed, it will require a deliberate act of Congress, ordering their release.

    For more information, see “Declassification Reviews of Certain Congressional Information” on page 35 of the recent report “Improving Declassification” (pdf) from the Public Interest Declassification Board.