President Obama has still not appointed anyone to the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB), Secrecy News has learned.
The PIAB has broad responsibility for conducting internal executive branch oversight of intelligence, and it is specifically charged with alerting the President to intelligence activities that may be unlawful or contrary to executive order or presidential directive. Although the PIAB rarely releases its findings to the public, it is positioned to play a potentially important role in the intelligence oversight process. Its actual performance seems to depend on the qualifications of Board members, which have sometimes been minimal, as well as the receptivity of an Administration to the oversight process.
Without any members, the PIAB is “kind of running on autopilot,” said Homer Pointer, counsel to the Board. But he added that “day to day intelligence oversight marches on,” particularly since the Director of National Intelligence and relevant department heads are required by executive order to report to the Board on a regular basis.
The Boston Globe reported last year that President Bush had “stripped the Board of much of its authority” (“President weakens espionage oversight” by Charlie Savage, March 14, 2008) but Mr. Pointer disputed that assessment.
News reports in January 2009 indicated that President-elect Obama had asked former DNI J. Michael McConnell to serve on the PIAB. But for whatever reason, a formal appointment of Mr. McConnell has not yet been made, Mr. Pointer said, nor have any other members of the Board been designated.
“We are hopeful that a new Board will be named soon,” Mr. Pointer said.