Intelligence officials today released top secret internal briefings they had provided to members of Congress that outline the dragnet phone call metadata surveillance program lawmakers secretly knew about but could not tell Americans when publicly voting for it.

The disclosure of the classified documents back assertions from the government, and even some members of Congress, that lawmakers were well in the loop of the dragnet surveillance program disclosed by the Guardian newspaper last month based on secret documents from National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. Yet lawmakers were prohibited from publicly discussing the classified program, although the House and Senate subsequently authorized the dragnet in public votes on at least two occasions without the general public’s knowledge.