Intelligence Accountability Reviews: An Unused Oversight Tool

06.27.13 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

In 2007, Congress passed legislation to grant the Director of National Intelligence “new authority to conduct accountability reviews of significant failures or deficiencies with the Intelligence Community.”  Up to now, however, that authority has never been exercised.

In 2011, the DNI issued Intelligence Community Directive (ICD) 111 on “Accountability Reviews.” That recently disclosed Directive “establishes policy and procedures governing the conduct of such reviews.”

“It is essential that alleged failures or deficiencies involving an IC element or senior IC personnel in the management or execution of IC missions be carefully reviewed and fully resolved,” DNI James R. Clapper wrote in ICD 111.

But in response to a query about how many accountability reviews have been conducted, and on which topics, Michael G. Birmingham of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence this week said that “There have been no accountability reviews conducted under the authorities in ICD 111.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee said in 2007 that the authority to perform accountability reviews was justified by a perceived lack of internal accountability for intelligence failures.

“This enhancement to the authority of the Director of National Intelligence is warranted given the apparent reluctance of various elements of the Intelligence Community to hold their agencies or personnel accountable for significant failures or deficiencies,” according to the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the FY 2008 Intelligence Authorization Act (section 401, p. 16).

“Recent history provides several examples of serious failures to adhere to sound analytic tradecraft,” the Committee report said. “In its reviews of both the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the faulty Iraq prewar assessments on weapons of mass destruction, the Committee found specific examples of these failures yet no one within the Intelligence Community has been held accountable. Other examples of a lack of accountability within the Intelligence Community can be found by examining the history of certain major system acquisition programs. Despite clear management failures that resulted in significant cost overruns and unreasonable scheduling delays, these programs continue to stumble along without any imposition of accountability.”

“The Committee hopes that this modest increase in the Director of National Intelligence’s authorities will encourage elements within the Intelligence Community to put their houses in order by imposing accountability for significant failures and deficiencies,” the Senate Committee report said.

The measure was passed by both houses of Congress as section 408 of the FY 2008 Intelligence Authorization Act. Though that bill was vetoed by the President, the provision on accountability reviews was later enacted into law as Section 102A(f)(7) of the National Security Act.

The ICD stated that accountability reviews would not be conducted (“except in extraordinary circumstances”) or would be deferred whenever the same issues were under review by law enforcement, inspectors general or other investigative bodies.

Earlier this month, the Director of National Intelligence issued another Intelligence Community Directive on the subject of Outside Employment.  ICD 117, dated 09 June 2013, implements a statutory requirement “prohibiting IC personnel from engaging in outside employment if such employment creates a conflict of interest or the appearance thereof.”