Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Most Recent Developments in Intelligence Issues

On September 16, the Senate approved an amended version of the FY2010 Intelligence
Authorization bill (S. 1494) on voice vote. The bill would require Senate confirmation of future
nominees to head the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Reconnaissance Office
(NRO), the National Geospatial-Imagery Agency (NGA), and to serve as Deputy Director of the
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It would also strengthen the role of the Director of National
Intelligence (DNI) in managing acquisitions of intelligence systems. The two intelligence
committees are to be kept informed of all covert actions and other intelligence activities; if the
Executive Branch intends not to inform all members of the committees, the committees are to be
advised of the “main features” of the activity in a form that could be accessible to all committee
members. In a provision that has been under consideration for some years, the bill would
establish a statutory Inspector General for the entire Intelligence Community. It would also
require that the Administration disclose the amount requested in the annual budget for the
National Intelligence Program. At the request of the Administration, the Senate Intelligence
Committee separated issues of terrorist detention and interrogation from the bill and indicated an
intention to address these issues in separate legislation. Differences over these issues had
contributed to the inability to enact intelligence authorization legislation since 2004. Although
details of satellite programs are contained in the classified annex to the accompanying Report
(S.Rept. 111-55), the legislation recommends “a more capable and more affordable imagery
architecture” than currently exists with some observers suggesting that provisions in S. 1494
differ significantly from provisions in defense appropriations bills currently under consideration.

On June 26, the House Intelligence Committee reported (H.Rept. 111-186), its version of the
FY2010 Intelligence Authorization Act, H.R. 2701. If enacted, the legislation would curtail
implementation of the Defense Civilian Intelligence Personnel System, require that the President
brief intelligence committees on both planned intelligence activities and covert actions and
maintain records of which Members had been informed. The bill would also require that the
Senate confirm nominees to head the NRO and NSA (but not the NGA); the bill establishes the
position of deputy director of the CIA but does not require Senate confirmation for filling this
position. The bill would also establish a statutory Inspector General for the Intelligence
Community. The Administration criticized several provisions in the bill and threatened a veto of
provisions that would alter current law that permits notification of covert actions to only the
“Gang of Eight,” rather than the full membership of the two intelligence committees. Information
could be limited only if one of the committees determines that not all of its members are required
to a particular covert action finding.

On March 5 the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee announced
an review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program which is expected to take a year. On
April 16 the Administration released key memoranda from the Justice Department’s Office of
Legal Counsel on the background of the program.

Media accounts indicate that the two intelligence committees will also investigate reports that the
National Security Agency gathered communications of U.S. persons in the process of adjusting its
practices in accordance with surveillance legislation enacted in 2008.

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