House to Consider GAO Audits of Intelligence

Updated below, to reflect passage of the amendment

Defying a previous veto threat from the White House, the House of Representatives will consider an amendment to bolster intelligence oversight by requiring intelligence agencies to cooperate with the Government Accountability Office when it performs audits that are requested by a congressional committee with jurisdiction over intelligence.

In general, the amendment (pdf) states, “the Director of National Intelligence shall ensure that personnel of the Government Accountability Office designated by the Comptroller General are provided with access to all information in the possession of an element of the intelligence community that the Comptroller General determines is necessary for such personnel to conduct an analysis, evaluation, or investigation of a program or activity of an element of the intelligence community that is requested by one of the congressional intelligence committees.”

The amendment to the FY2011 Defense Authorization Act (HR 5136) was sponsored by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and several colleagues.

When a similar amendment was included in the FY2010 Intelligence Authorization Act, which is still pending, it prompted a veto threat from the Obama White House.  But the White House opposition was based on an erroneous interpretation of the law, the Acting Comptroller of the GAO told Congress.

Somewhat surprisingly, given the likelihood of a renewed veto threat, the House Democratic leadership ruled that the Eshoo amendment was “in order,” and it will therefore be considered on the House floor, perhaps today or tomorrow.

Back when he was a Congressman in 1987, CIA Director Leon Panetta introduced a bill called the “CIA Accountability Act” (pdf) that would have reinforced GAO oversight over the Central Intelligence Agency.

Update: The amendment passed the House on May 27 by a vote of 218-210. See this news release from Rep. Eshoo: House Passes Legislation to Increase Oversight of Intelligence Community.