from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
July 19, 2001


"Is the CIA's refusal to cooperate with Congressional inquiries a threat to effective oversight of the operations of the Federal Government?"

That rather leading question was the topic of an unusual hearing before two subcommittees of the House Government Reform Committee yesterday.

The hearing was unusual because the established structures of intelligence oversight are rarely criticized within Congress itself, and Republican committee chairmen rarely speak of the CIA with anger and indignation. But yesterday they did.

"The CIA is assaulting Congress's constitutional responsibility to oversee executive branch activities," said subcommittee chairman Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.) "The CIA believes it is above that basic principle in our Constitution. We do not agree."

"Tell me why I shouldn't be outraged," said Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), also a subcommittee chair. "When faced with persistent institutionalized [CIA] resistance to legitimate inquiries, we're compelled to reassert our authority."

The congressional ire was triggered by the CIA's refusal to participate in a committee hearing on computer security at the Agency.

"Neither I nor any CIA representative will testify," wrote DCI George J. Tenet bluntly on July 17. He noted that House Intelligence Committee chairman Porter Goss "urged me not to testify." See Tenet's letter here:

This prompted a fascinating discussion at yesterday's hearing of the respective oversight roles of the House Intelligence Committee and the House Government Reform Committee; the adequacy of the House Intelligence Committee's performance; the definition of intelligence "sources and methods" (which, by House rule, are the exclusive purview of the Intelligence Committee); the need to limit oversight of sensitive intelligence matters; the role of the General Accounting Office in intelligence oversight; and other fundamental issues.

The questions were generally better than the answers. Some of the testimony concerning national security classification was incorrect or misleading. But the official anger at the CIA was palpable, and may yet have policy consequences for the Agency.

The witness statements from the hearing are posted here:

"It is important to curtail growing GAO initiatives to investigate intelligence activities," according to a 1994 CIA memorandum on CIA policy toward the General Accounting Office that was released yesterday. The memo, authored by Stanley M. Moskowitz (who went on to fame if not fortune as CIA station chief in Tel Aviv), is posted here:

CIA computer security policy, which was initial subject of the House Committee's inquiry, is governed by DCI Directive 6/3, "Protecting Sensitive Compartmented Information Within Information Systems." That 5 June 1999 Directive was obtained by Secrecy News and is now available here:


A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday on "Reforming FBI Management: The Views from Inside and Out" became a forum for airing the usual litany of complaints about the Bureau, and then some.

FBI Deputy Assistant Director Kenneth Senser described several of the internal security reforms that have been adopted in the wake of the Robert Hanssen espionage case, including: enhanced computer audit procedures, an expanded polygraph program, and an enhanced security clearance reinvestigation program.

Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy noted that the Justice Department has provided the Committee with an unclassified version of the long-awaited "Bellows" review of the Wen Ho Lee espionage investigation. But that unclassified document has still not been "scrubbed" for privacy and other considerations, and so it is not yet releasable to the public. A Justice Department spokesman said today that preparation of a public version of the report is a "top priority."

Prepared statements from yesterday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing are posted here:

Former Energy Department counterintelligence official Notra Trulock criticized a recent General Accounting Office report on the FBI's handling of the Wen Ho Lee investigation.

"The report contains some factual errors that, if left uncorrected, perpetuate the web of deceit the FBI has spun to cover up its own mistakes and blunders in the Wen Ho Lee debacle," Mr. Trulock wrote to the GAO on July 17. See:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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