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'Surprise' Obama Visit Bumps Critical Hearing on NSA Spying

Testimony of Greenwald, ACLU, and others canceled due to suspicious last-minute visit from Obama

Sarah Lazare

A widely anticipated Wednesday hearing from critics of the NSA on the floor of the House has been suddenly pulled after Obama called a surprise meeting with House Democrats.

Critics of the National Security Agency's secret spying program were slated for an unofficial congressional hearing Wednesday as a counter-weight to the "constant misleading information"—as Congressman Alan Grayson (D - Flor.) put it—from the secret surveillance community.

Yet, the hearing was abruptly cancelled after President Obama's last-minute interest in meeting with House Democrats at the exact time of the scheduled hearing.

NSA critics suggest that Obama sought to derail the hearing, part of the increasingly desperate White House effort to contain growing public outrage at the spying. "Obama developed a sudden and newfound interest in House Democrats and scheduled a meeting with them for that same time," Greenwald told Politico Tuesday.

The hearing was set to feature a swath of NSA critics from the right and left—whose voices have been excluded from congressional debates dominated by NSA and national intelligence directors—including Greenwald who broke the NSA spying story, NSA whistleblower Kirk Wiebe, and officials from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Cato Institute.

"Rather than asking our Democratic colleagues to choose between speaking with the President of the United States, or attend a hearing on the immensely important topic of domestic surveillance, we reluctantly opted to push the hearing back," Grayson's press secretary Lauren Doney told Common Dreams Wednesday.

"I’m not in a position to speculate on the President’s motivation for meeting with the Democratic Caucus this week," Doney told Common Dreams, in response to questions about whether Obama may have intentionally created a time conflict. She claimed that the hearing will be rescheduled sometime in September after the Congressional recess but said there is currently no set date.

The hearing was to take place as a recent McClatchy-Marist poll shows people in the US are furious at NSA spying, days after a legislative attempt to curb the spying died before getting off the ground.

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