from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2013, Issue No. 24
March 7, 2013

Secrecy News Blog:


Congress has again blocked the transfer of the National Intelligence Program outside the Department of Defense budget, rejecting a move that had been urged by the 9/11 Commission. The transfer was specifically prohibited in the 2013 continuing appropriations conference bill passed by the House yesterday.

"None of the funds appropriated in this or any other Act may be used to plan, prepare for, or otherwise take any action to undertake or implement the separation of the National Intelligence Program budget from the Department of Defense budget," the conference bill stated in section 8108.

As things stand, the National Intelligence Program is largely subordinate, if not altogether subservient, to the Department of Defense and to the vagaries and pressures of the defense appropriations process.

The 9/11 Commission said that a stand-alone intelligence budget was a prerequisite to effective intelligence leadership, and that it was an essential step towards needed reform of congressional oversight of intelligence.

Declassification of the intelligence budget total, which has now become the norm, made it possible to "unlock the concealment of the intelligence budget inside the Pentagon budget and, with it, control by the defense appropriations subcommittee and the Pentagon," recalled Commission executive director Philip Zelikow in an article last year in CIA Studies in Intelligence. "With that declassification, our proposed reform of Congress was possible, adding budget control to the general oversight authority of the intelligence committees."

But giving additional authority to the intelligence committees meant taking authority away from defense appropriators, and it seems that was too much to swallow.

In another provision of the 2013 continuing appropriations bill (sec. 8080), Congress said that no funds may be spent to make use of intelligence that has been unlawfully acquired.

"None of the funds provided in this Act shall be available for integration of foreign intelligence information unless the information has been lawfully collected and processed during the conduct of authorized foreign intelligence activities: Provided, That information pertaining to United States persons shall only be handled in accordance with protections provided in the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution as implemented through Executive Order No. 12333."


Congress has directed the Secretary of Defense to report on the handling of surveillance data collected by military unmanned aerial systems operating in domestic airspace. A provision in the 2013 continuing appropriations conference bill approved by the House yesterday explained:

"The conferees are aware of concerns that have been raised regarding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and their sensors in domestic airspace. The conferees understand that the Air Force has policies and procedures in place governing the disposition of UAV collections that may inadvertently capture matters of concern to law enforcement agencies. These policies and procedures are designed to ensure constitutional protections and proper separation between the military and law enforcement. However, it is unclear if other Services and Defense agencies have similar policies and procedures in place, or if these policies and procedures need to be revised or standardized. Therefore, the conferees direct the Secretary of Defense to report to the congressional defense committees on the policies and procedures in place across the Services and Defense agencies governing the use of such collections and to identify any additional steps that need to be taken to ensure that such policies and procedures are adequate and consistent across the Department of Defense. This report shall be submitted not later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act."

The referenced Air Force policy on incidental collection of U.S. person data by its drones was reported in "USAF Drones May Conduct 'Incidental' Domestic Surveillance," Secrecy News, May 8, 2012.

The use of unmanned aerial systems for surveillance and targeted killing of American citizens has galvanized political attention to a degree that seems wildly out of proportion to the objective data that are available. But that political attention itself creates a new objective reality.

Sen. Rand Paul conducted a nearly 13 hour filibuster on the Senate floor yesterday in an effort to compel an official answer to the question of whether non-combatant U.S. citizens could be lethally targeted by drone in the United States. (The answer, the attorney general said today, is no.) The text of the marathon floor discussion, which included many interesting and substantive points, is available here:

On Tuesday, a bill was introduced by Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA) "to protect individual privacy against unwarranted governmental intrusion through the use of the unmanned aerial vehicles commonly called drones" (HR 972):


The latest products from the Congressional Research Service include these reports:

Gun Control Proposals in the 113th Congress: Universal Background Checks, Gun Trafficking, and Military Style Firearms, March 1, 2013:

Party Leaders in the United States Congress, 1789-2013, March 4, 2013:

Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs: Status of the Integrated Electronic Health Record (iEHR), February 26, 2013:

Environmental Regulation and Agriculture, February 22, 2013:

Oil Sands and the Keystone XL Pipeline: Background and Selected Environmental Issues, February 21, 2013:

A bill was introduced today by Reps. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Mike Quigley (D-IL) that would facilitate public access to CRS reports without the need for subterfuge, unauthorized access, or payment of fees to private vendors. Similar legislative efforts in the past have repeatedly been rejected. See "It's Time to Give the Public Access to CRS Reports" by Matthew Rumsey, Sunlight Foundation, March 7:


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

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