Secrecy News

McCain Proposes New Select Committee on NSA Leaks

A resolution introduced yesterday by Sen. John McCain would establish a new Senate Select Committee to investigate the unauthorized disclosures of classified information on National Security Agency collection programs and their implications for national policy.

The McCain resolution is framed broadly and touches on many issues besides leaks, including intelligence policy, congressional oversight, the role of contractors, the constitutionality of current intelligence programs, and more.

The resolution asserts that “senior officials in the intelligence community may have misled Congress or otherwise obfuscated the nature, extent, or use of certain intelligence-collection programs, operations, and activities of the National Security Agency, including intelligence-collection programs affecting Americans.”

“[T]he provision of incomplete or inaccurate information by officials of the intelligence community has inhibited effective congressional oversight of certain intelligence-collection programs, operations, and activities of the National Security Agency, including intelligence-collection programs affecting Americans, and undermined congressional and public support of these programs,” the resolution stated.

Moreover, “some such programs, operations, and activities that are the subject matter of the unauthorized disclosures may not have been authorized, or may have exceeded that which was authorized, by law, or may not have been permitted under the Constitution of the United States.”

The proposed new select committee would investigate the unauthorized disclosures and assess how they occurred, the damage to U.S. national security that resulted, and how such damage could be mitigated.

The committee would review the role of intelligence contractors and the adequacy of current management controls.

The committee would evaluate the legality, constitutionality, and efficacy of the NSA collection programs that have been disclosed.

It would also consider “the need for greater transparency and more effective congressional oversight of intelligence community activities,” and whether existing laws are sufficient “to safeguard the rights and privacies of citizens of the United States.”

In proposing a new select committee, Senator McCain is implicitly declaring that existing oversight procedures are inadequate, and that a new, more fundamental approach is required. The prospects for the McCain proposal to become a reality are uncertain.

2 thoughts on “McCain Proposes New Select Committee on NSA Leaks

  1. Isn’t this like the “pot calling the kettle black” in some ways? After all, we know that power corrupts, even the so called “good guys”. After all this enlightenment, the McCain decides to put his mark on new regulation[s]. Perhaps if that was done to begin with, instead of giving carte blanche to the NSA as well as the other intelligence departments, we wouldn’t be having this conversation today. Isn’t it really a bit late closing the door[s] to the barn, after the inhabitants have departed?

  2. No new committees. The two Select Committees were already supposed to have provided this kind of oversight, and they haven’t. Ditto the FISA court. Why should anyone believe that the performance of this proposed committee would be any different? We do not need more committees, more official oversight bodies, commissions. Please. They’re only there to make you think that an orderly, legitimate governmental procedure is in place to handle transgressions, which they invariably portray as vastly less outrageous than they are. Maybe in the Church Committee days one could talk of oversight, but even the Church Committee, as Carl Bernstein informed us in 1977, didn’t tell us how corrupted the media became because of the CIA. No, what we need is more political courage, like that of Edward Snowden, who is not afraid to call out the bogus, self-serving hugger-muggery of the intelligence agencies.

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