Friday, June 16, 2006

Congressional Oversight of Intelligence is Broken

Congressional oversight of intelligence is "dysfunctional," according
to a new report from the liberal Center for American Progress.

Some of the most urgent and fundamental policy issues facing the
nation are matters of intelligence policy: What are the proper
boundaries of domestic intelligence surveillance? What is the legal
framework for interrogation of enemy detainees? Why haven't the
recommendations of the 9/11 Commission been effectively implemented?


But at a moment when intelligence policy is relatively high on the
public agenda, the intelligence oversight committees in Congress seem
to have little to contribute.

Even on specific intelligence questions such as the conduct of
warrantless domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency,
the public can gain more insight from the Senate Judiciary Committee,
which has held several public hearings on the subject, than from the
Senate Intelligence Committee, which has held none.

The new Center for American Progress report provides a useful survey
of the history of intelligence oversight and its current failings,
along with a prescription for improvement.

"Correcting the problems that plague congressional oversight of
intelligence will not require dramatic changes in the existing
oversight structure. Congress has all the tools it needs to conduct
its oversight responsibilities effectively....it is simply not using
them. It must.
"

See "No Mere Oversight: Congressional Oversight of Intelligence is
Broken,
" June 13, 2006:

http://www.americanprogress.org/site/pp.asp?c=biJRJ8OVF&b=1761097

Some of the limitations of intelligence oversight are implicit in the
structure of the process.

For an earlier (1992) self-critical account by a staff member of the
Senate Intelligence Committee, see "Congressional Oversight of
Intelligence: One Perspective
" by Mary K. Sturtevant, American
Intelligence Journal, Summer 1992:

http://www.fas.org/irp/eprint/sturtevant.html

A recent study of Romania's intelligence apparatus finds that
"legislative control of intelligence in Romania can be estimated on a
low-medium-high scale as 'medium to high'."

Furthermore, in Romania "the budgets of the intelligence agencies are
transparent,"
which is more than can be said about U.S. intelligence.

See "The Intelligence Phenomenon in a New Democratic Milieu: Romania
-- A Case Study"
by Valentin Fernand Filip, Naval Postgraduate
School, March 2006:

http://www.fas.org/irp/world/romania/filip.pdf

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