Congress Not Told of Covert Action, Committee Complains

05.09.07 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

U.S. intelligence recently undertook a “significant” covert action without notifying Congress, as required by law, the House Intelligence Committee disclosed in a new report on the 2008 intelligence authorization bill.

“The Committee was dismayed at a recent incident wherein the Intelligence Community failed to inform the Congress of a significant covert action activity. This failure to notify Congress constitutes a violation of the National Security Act of 1947.”

“Despite agency explanations that the failure was inadvertent, the Committee is deeply troubled over the fact that such an oversight could occur, whether intentionally or inadvertently.”

“The Committee firmly believes that scrupulous transparency between the Intelligence Community and this Committee is an absolute necessity on matters related to covert action.”

In response to this lapse, the Committee adopted a provision in its authorization bill that would require the CIA Inspector General to audit each covert action program at least once every three years.

The pending bill is “the single largest intelligence authorization bill ever written by the Committee,” according to a May 2 news release (pdf).

The new intelligence authorization report describes new reporting requirements on the role of contractors in U.S. intelligence, Member concerns regarding intelligence policy in Iraq and domestic surveillance, defects in intelligence acquisition programs, and the evolution of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

“The recent 100-day agenda released by the DNI contained a great deal of bureaucratic verbiage but failed to articulate a clear and compelling plan for addressing chronic problems plaguing the Intelligence Community, such as deficiencies in foreign language capability, lack of diversity, information-sharing impediments, overclassification, and the lack of common security clearance practices,” the report said.

The bill does not include changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act sought by the Administration.

“Before the Committee will support any change to existing law, it is essential that the President provide some measure of assurance that were he to sign a bill modifying FISA into law, he would agree to be bound by it,” the report stated.

In minority views appended to the report, Republican members criticized the Committee endorsement of an intelligence role in assessing the impact of global warming, and other Committee judgments.

See Report on the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2008, House Report 110-131, May 7.