Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) this week defended the current structure of congressional oversight of intelligence, and specifically rejected a proposal by Sen. Christopher Bond (R-MO) to establish a subcommittee on intelligence within the Senate Appropriations Committee (described in Secrecy News, Sept. 12).
Sen. Bond’s proposal, according to Sen. Inouye, would have the undesirable effect of reducing the number of Senators and staff who are engaged in intelligence oversight. “It would put all decisionmaking into fewer hands,” he said.
In making his argument, Senator Inouye also provided some fresh insight into current intelligence oversight arrangements in the Intelligence and Appropriations Committees.
“I would point out that the Intelligence Committee has one professional staff member on the majority staff who reviews the budget for the National Reconnaissance Office; so do we [on the Appropriations Committee]. The Intelligence Committee has one professional staff member on the majority staff who reviews the budget for the National Security Agency; so do we.”
Sen. Inouye also obliquely discussed an intelligence satellite program advocated by Sen. Bond but rejected by the Appropriations Committee.
The history of congressional oversight of intelligence and specifically the CIA was recently explored in depth by L. Britt Snider in “The Agency and the Hill: CIA’s Relationship with Congress, 1946-2004” (pdf), CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence, 2008.
Reviewing the book in the latest issue of Studies in Intelligence, bibliophile and intelligence expert Hayden B. Peake wrote that “It will be the principal reference book on the topic for the foreseeable future.” But surprisingly, the Snider book has minimal discussion of intelligence budget disclosure, one of the perennial themes in congressional oversight, and it does not even mention the official declassification of the intelligence budget in 1997 and 1998. David M. Barrett’s “The CIA and Congress,” cited by Snider, also has additional material not found in the Snider book for the early years of the Agency.