GAO and Intelligence Oversight

By August 4, 2008

The Government Accountability Office is among the most potent and productive tools of government oversight available. Perhaps for that reason, U.S. intelligence agencies have been reluctant to cooperate with GAO investigations.

Sen. Daniel Akaka introduced legislation last year to reaffirm GAO authority to investigate intelligence agency activities, and that legislation was the subject of a Senate hearing in February. All of the witnesses, including myself (pdf) and then-GAO Comptroller General David M. Walker (pdf), urged an increased role for GAO in intelligence oversight.

See the record of the February 29, 2008 hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on “Government-Wide Intelligence Community Management Reforms.”

As of March 2008, there were 1,000 GAO employees with Top Secret security clearances out of 3,153 total staff. Of those, 73 held SCI (“sensitive compartmented information”) clearances for access to intelligence information, according to a GAO letter supplied for the hearing record (pdf).

A bill adopted last week in the House, called the “Government Accountability Office Improvement Act” (HR 6388) did not explicitly address intelligence oversight by GAO.

Categories: Secrecy