Bill to provide more congressional oversight
October 03, 2010
A provision that will increase congressional oversight of top secret programs passed the House late on September 29, 2010. The measure, included in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, mandates that the administration share more information with Congress about classified and especially sensitive national security programs known as covert actions. The bill, negotiated between the administration, intelligence committees and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), includes a provision that requires the government to share a "general description" of covert programs with the full committee members beyond the more detailed briefings given to the "Gang of Eight," which includes the chairs and ranking members of both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and Republican and Democratic leadership for both chambers.

The provision also requires that all notifications from the administration be in writing and include legal justifications for programs. It also directs the heads of all intelligence agencies to annually submit a statement to Congress certifying they are in compliance with the disclosure requirements of the National Security Act.

The Senate passed the bill by voice vote Monday night and it headed to the president's desk for signature.

"This policy will ensure that this and future administrations are more accountable," said Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington legislative office. "It will also serve as a check on Congress. Members of the "Gang of Eight" and the intelligence committees will no longer be able to claim ignorance of national security programs as they have in the past. Recent years have proven how an environment of secrecy will inevitably lead to abuse of power. This measure is long overdue and will help stem the tide of growing government secrecy."

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