Intelligence Issues in Congress

11.18.10 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper went a little out of his way to praise the Government Accountability Office at a Senate hearing on security clearance reform on November 16. “I’d be remiss if I didn’t recognize the crucial role that GAO continues to play in keeping the heat on the executive branch for security clearance reform and, also, on areas they have identified where more work is required,” DNI Clapper told a subcommittee hearing chaired by Senator Daniel Akaka.

As required by the FY2010 intelligence authorization act, the DNI is preparing a directive to authorize and regulate GAO access to intelligence information, a step that should portend an increased role for GAO in intelligence oversight. In the future, GAO access to intelligence “will be similar to the GAO’s access to the Department of Defense’s Special Access Programs,” suggested Sen. Rockefeller.

In pursuing a new cybersecurity agenda, “the government must be as transparent as possible with the American people,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse yesterday. “I doubt very much that the Obama administration would abuse new authorities in cyberspace to violate Americans’ civil liberties. But on principle, I firmly and strongly believe that maximum transparency to the public and rigorous congressional oversight are essential. We have to go about this right.”

Retiring Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Christopher Bond offered his valedictory thoughts on intelligence policy on the Senate floor yesterday, launching darts in multiple directions.  Among other recommendations, he called for an increased number of prosecutions to combat leaks.

“We must first deter and neutralize the leakers. There should be significant criminal, civil, and administrative sanctions that can be imposed on leakers. Leakers should face significant jail time, pay heavy fines, forfeit any profits, lose their pensions, and be fired from their jobs. We should also not allow the first amendment to be used as a shield for criminal activity. It should be a crime to knowingly solicit a person to reveal classified information for an unauthorized purpose or to knowingly publish or possess such information. Leaks will not stop until a significant number of leakers have been appropriately punished,” Sen. Bond said.

Technically, any alert reader of national newspapers “possesses” classified information and would therefore be criminally liable under Senator Bond’s rash formulation.