Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Directors of National Intelligence and Central Intelligence Agency Critical of Gang of Eight Notifications for Non-Covert Actions

During their respective Senate confirmation hearings, Director of National Intelligence (DNI)
Dennis Blair and CIA Director Leon Panetta criticized the use of the Gang of Eight notification
procedure to notify Congress of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) electronic
communications surveillance program—often referred to as the Terrorist Surveillance Program,
or TSP—and the CIA’s detention, interrogation and rendition program. DNI Blair said both
programs “... involved sensitive collection activities rather than covert actions. The “Gang of 8”
notice is available ... only where notice of covert action is concerned, and its use in these
programs was not expressly allowed.”36 Director Panetta said “the NSA surveillance program was
not a covert action program, and, therefore, limiting notification to the “gang of eight” was
inappropriate.”37 DNI Blair said that, because of the restrictive nature of Gang of Eight
notifications in these two instances, “the intelligence committees were prevented from carrying
out their oversight responsibilities.”38 Director Panetta, expressing similar sentiments, said that
such limited notifications “restrict the ability of the intelligence committees to conduct
oversight.”39

Endnotes

36 See “Additional Pre-hearing Questions for Dennis C. Blair upon nomination to be Director of National Intelligence,” Question/Answer 4(C).

37 See “Additional Pre-hearing Questions for the Record For the Honorable Leon E. Panetta upon his selection to be the Director of The Central Intelligence Agency,” Question/Answer 23. In his response, Director Panetta did not address whether the CIA’s
detention, interrogation and rendition program was an intelligence collection program, or a covert action program.
Former CIA Director Michael Hayden, has said that the program “... began life as a covert action ... ” See Australian
Broadcasting Corporation, AM, April 17, 2009.
Before the notification briefings were subsequently expanded to include more Members, the executive treated both
programs as particularly sensitive collection programs insofar as notification was concerned, in that it limited its initial
notification to the Gang of Four. See letter from Representative Jane Harman to President George W. Bush, December
21, 2005, in which she makes reference to the Administration’s use of the Gang of Four notification process, used
initially to notify Congress. The Bush Administration also employed the Gang of Four notification procedure to notify
Congress of the CIA’s detention, interrogation and rendition program. See “Members Briefings on Enhanced
Interrogation Techniques (EITs),” released by the CIA on May 6, 2009. A listing of the briefings can be found here.

38 See “Additional Pre-hearing Questions for Dennis C. Blair upon nomination to be Director of National Intelligence,” Question/Answer 4(C).

39 See “Additional Pre-hearing Questions for the Record For the Honorable Leon E. Panetta upon his selection to be the Director of The Central Intelligence Agency,” Question/Answer 23.

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