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Friday, June 1, 2007

Changes Coming In The Intelligence Authorization Act for 2008

The Senate Intelligence Committe delivered several rebuffs to the White House in the recent report accompanying the Intelligence Authorization Act for 2008. The Act contains several significant new provisions that will change how the intelligence community works on some sensitive matters. Among the changes:

  • A provision allowing the declassification of documents in the public interest -- at the best of Congress, without presidential approval. Previously, the president had complete control over the declassification process.
  • Requires the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to sumbit a report to Congress on its compliance with laws passed in 2005 and 2006 dealing with the treatment of detainees in top-secret CIA prisons. This section drops the term "war crimes" into the discussion.
  • Strengthened reporting of covert actions, as well as stipulating that a previous legislative mandate to report covert actions also includes reporting "any change to a covert action finding" rather than the previous "any significant change."
  • Required substantially increased reporting of actions before secret courts under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This is one of the most important tools used for domestic spying.
  • Demands copies of ALL president's daily briefs mentioning Iraq be sent to congressional intelligence committees. This one is probably the most direct challenge to the unfettered authority of the White House, though much of the rest will rankle as well.
  • Insitutes accountability reviews for intelligence failures. This is a long overdue step.
  • Gives the DNI new power to appropriate funds and personnel from a particular agency into an interagency effort.
  • Adds two new critical technology positions and institutes an inter-agency Inspector General for the intelligence community.
  • Increased penalties for disclosing the identity of intelligence operatives.

    The CIA prison program got more space in the comments section:

    More than five years after the decision to start the program, however, the Committee believes that consideration should be given to whether it is the best means to obtain a full and reliable intelligence debriefing of a detainee. Both Congress and the Administration must continue to evaluate whether having a separate CIA detention program that operates under different interrogation rules than those applicable to military and law enforcement officers is necessary, lawful, and in the best interests of the United States.

    Moreover, the Committee believes that the demonstrated value of the program should be weighed against both the complications it causes to any ultimate prosecution of these terrorists, and the damage the program does to the image of the United States abroad.

    It also expressed deep concern about al Qaeda's continued ability to survive and thrive in the face of our most aggressive tactics.

    The Committee is concerned with recent assessments that indicate al-Qa'ida has regenerated and resumed its operational planning against western targets from its relative safe haven in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Despite the apprehension and death of key leaders, al-Qa'ida continues to train operatives and expand its reach, as evidenced by the 2007 North Africa attacks by the newly named "al-Qa'ida in the Maghreb."

    The resurgence of al-Qa'ida, nearly six years after the terrorist attacks of September 11,2001, suggests the Intelligence Community should reevaluate its current strategy to defeat the al-Qa'ida network. The Committee addresses this issue further in the classified annex.

    For the full report, click here.

    See also: Outsourcing Intelligence

    Agency said it increasingly "finds itself in competition with its contractors for our own employees."


    Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



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    INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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