Tempo of Congressional Oversight Increases

Though it is still too early to identify concrete results, the pace of Congressional oversight activity on secrecy and intelligence matters has already increased markedly in the new Congress.

The House Intelligence Subcommittee on Intelligence Community Management said it “will monitor trends in classification of executive branch material, the costs of over-classification, the practice of selective declassification, and the exclusive reliance on a variety of ‘sensitive but unclassified’ designations by U.S. government agencies and departments,” according to a new Committee work plan (pdf). “The Subcommittee will also examine the issue of unauthorized disclosure of classified information.” See “Oversight Plan for the 110th Congress,” House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, February 7.

Rep. Henry Waxman’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a February 13 hearing on the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act that would extend protections to whistleblowers in intelligence and national security agencies. Prepared testimony from that hearing, including several informative statements on current issues in whistleblower protection policy, may be found here.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) introduced the Intelligence Community Audit Act (H.R. 978), a bill that would “reaffirm the authority of the [Government Accountability Office] to audit and evaluate the programs, activities, and financial transactions of the intelligence community.” It is a companion measure to S. 82, introduced by Sen. Akaka last month.

Senator Christopher Dodd introduced the Restoring the Constitution Act (S. 576) that would amend the much-criticized Military Commissions Act of 2006, which curtailed habeas corpus claims by suspected enemy combatants. Co-sponsor Sen. Russ Feingold said the new bill would “restore basic due process rights and ensure that no person is subject to indefinite detention without charge based on the sole discretion of the President.”

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