Congress has again blocked the transfer of the National Intelligence Program outside the Department of Defense budget, rejecting a move that had been urged by the 9/11 Commission. The transfer was specifically prohibited in the 2013 continuing appropriations conference bill passed by the House yesterday.
“None of the funds appropriated in this or any other Act may be used to plan, prepare for, or otherwise take any action to undertake or implement the separation of the National Intelligence Program budget from the Department of Defense budget,” the conference bill stated in section 8108.
As things stand, the National Intelligence Program is largely subordinate, if not altogether subservient, to the Department of Defense and to the vagaries and pressures of the defense appropriations process.
The 9/11 Commission said that a stand-alone intelligence budget was a prerequisite to effective intelligence leadership, and that it was an essential step towards needed reform of congressional oversight of intelligence.
Declassification of the intelligence budget total, which has now become the norm, made it possible to “unlock the concealment of the intelligence budget inside the Pentagon budget and, with it, control by the defense appropriations subcommittee and the Pentagon,” recalled Commission executive director Philip Zelikow in an article last year in CIA Studies in Intelligence. “With that declassification, our proposed reform of Congress was possible, adding budget control to the general oversight authority of the intelligence committees.”
But giving additional authority to the intelligence committees meant taking authority away from defense appropriators, and it seems that was too much to swallow.
In another provision of the 2013 continuing appropriations bill (sec. 8080), Congress said that no funds may be spent to make use of intelligence that has been unlawfully acquired.
“None of the funds provided in this Act shall be available for integration of foreign intelligence information unless the information has been lawfully collected and processed during the conduct of authorized foreign intelligence activities: Provided, That information pertaining to United States persons shall only be handled in accordance with protections provided in the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution as implemented through Executive Order No. 12333.”