Secrecy News

SSCI Holds Open Hearing on Worldwide Threats

Last year Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), the new chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee (SSCI), abandoned the Committee’s longstanding practice of holding a public hearing with intelligence agency heads on the global threat environment. But yesterday, the annual threat hearing was once again held in public.

Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) noted last year’s lapse.

“It’s been two years since we’ve had one of these [hearings]. And I hope we don’t wait that long next time. I think it’s important that the American people have a chance to hear from these officials directly,” Sen. Heinrich said at the hearing yesterday. “Public debate, I believe, benefits tremendously from transparency.”

“The Senator is correct,” Chairman Burr replied. “We didn’t have an open threats hearing last year, we had a closed one.” But he noted that open hearings were held last year with agency heads from the NSA, NCTC and FBI. (And though he didn’t mention it, the Senate Armed Services Committee held its own public threat hearing last year, as well as yesterday, with intelligence community leaders, thereby casting an unflattering light on the Intelligence Committee’s closed door policy.)

Chairman Burr said that the Intelligence Committee would hold public hearings more frequently in the future.

“It is the intent of the chair to continue to allow every agency the opportunity, not just to be here for a worldwide threat hearing, but to come in and share with the American people what it is they do, why they do it, but more importantly why the American people should care about their success.”

“I think the Committee has attempted to try to increase the amount of open exposure with a degree of specificity that we haven’t had in the past,” Chairman Burr said.

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