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Ali Watkins @AliWatkins
, 15 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
After four and a half years, today is my last day covering the Senate Intelligence Committee. I am here to report that I never actually did secure a chair.
Covering Senate Intel, though, has been crazy and frustrating and a hell of a lot of fun. I learned a lot. And since there's heightened interest in this otherwise quiet Hill fixture, here's some random stuff I learned.
1. The concept of "who watches the watchmen" is so important. SSCI is *the* external oversight check on some of the administration's most secretive programs. Someone (ie, journalists) needs to make sure they're doing it well.
2. It’s easy to write the “SSCI is too secret! Closed-door oversight is ironic!” story. Agreed, great. Good to recognize & challenge it. Also important to get over it and figure out how to work around it. Being outraged will exhaust you and distract you from actually covering it.
3. The interest in SSCI ebbs and flows. But it should be actively watched, *especially* when nobody seems to care. That's when it's hard and boring and sometimes days go by without anything happening. But that's when it's most important.
4. By "actively watching," I don't mean requisite phone calls or big hearings. Pompeo, Brennan, Comey, Stewart, Clapper, or Rogers show/ed up All. The. Time. No fanfare. No cameras. If you're not here in person, you wouldn't know. It's important to see that and ask questions.
5. Respecting and understanding the system has made me better at covering it. By and large, I’ve found SSCI staff to be wicked smart, experienced people who don’t want to lose their clearances. When you make an effort to understand that, it makes you a better reporter (and human)
6. The partisanship of the committee goes in waves. It's good to keep track of that, communicate it and hold them to account about it. Politics and intelligence have historically not mixed well. Neither has its oversight.
7. On that note, be cognizant when you're reading stuff you suspect is leaking from the Hill, regardless of committee. Be able to separate politics from the facts. The number of people fully read into some of this sensitive stuff is infinitesimally small.
8. Even *MORE* important, I've learned to spot the difference between political reporting about intelligence stuff, and intelligence reporting. They're both super important. They're also different. This is especially important on the Russia story.
9. SSCI is a repository for almost every secret program and covert action you can imagine (and those you can't). Russia is far from their only responsibility. They have to oversee more than 17 (17!) IC components. There's way more to SSCI than Russia. That should be covered, too.
10. On Russia and the Hill: There are so many people that know pieces of this Russia story that it's easy to get multiple sources telling you the same wrong (or half-true) info that they totally believe is true. You know reporters are trustworthy when they correct their mistakes.
11. SSCI has been a blast. It's crazy boring most of the time.....until it isn't. And it's in those moments, when it gets wild, that you realize the value of having shown up during the slow days. So follow the people that do:

The CIA once told me I have "an emotional dependence" on covering SSCI. I thought they were wrong until I have to leave (they were a *little* right.) I've loved getting to know this weird hallway. Thanks to everyone who followed and put up with my angsty tweets about chairs.
Oh yeah, I should probably remind you all that I'm not actually disappearing. Starting Monday, find me covering ATF, DEA, Secret Service, et al @nytimes. On to new hallways!
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