Bill to Audit the Intelligence Community Introduced
Senator Akaka and Congressman Thompson jointly push for greater oversight of America’s security efforts
September 28, 2006 – Today, Representatives Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and U.S. Senators Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced the Intelligence Community Audit Act of 2006 which reaffirms the authority of the Comptroller General of the United States and head of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct for Congress audits and evaluations of the intelligence community – including audits and evaluations pertaining to financial transactions, programs, and information sharing and other activities. It also prescribes the security procedures that GAO must follow in conducting audits for congressional intelligence oversight committees of intelligence sources and methods, or covert actions.
With passage of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the federal government now encompasses 19 distinct components that have intelligence responsibilities. Ensuring that these components – which range from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to the Department of Homeland Security to the Department of Treasury – are cooperating and performing their missions effectively is critical to our national security and winning the war on terrorism.
“The need for greater oversight and availability of information to appropriate congressional committees is not new. But in this era of terrorism, lack of proper oversight can result in terrible consequences,” Senator Akaka said. “If the GAO had been able to conduct basic auditing functions of the intelligence community, perhaps some of the problems – such as sharing of information with state and local law enforcement officials and transportation security – that were so clearly exposed following the terrorist attacks in September 2001 would have been resolved,” he added. “It is extraordinary that five years after 9-11 most of the same problems persist.”
This risk to oversight became apparent earlier this year shortly after GAO released a report on federal government policies relating to the sharing of terrorism-related and sensitive but unclassified (SBU) information (GAO-06-385). Specifically, the DNI declined to comment on a draft version of the report because it considered GAO’s work in this non-sensitive area a “review of intelligence activities” that was “beyond GAO’s purview.”
“I was greatly disturbed by the Director of National Intelligence’s (DNI) refusal to contribute its fair share to the GAO report,” Rep. Thompson stated. “This bill makes clear that the DNI cannot evade Congressional oversight by lumping the sharing of unclassified information and other non-sensitive matters together with the kinds of intelligence activities that understandably must be held to a stricter standard.”
Rep. Lofgren agreed that the DNI’s position was untenable. “Given a recent National Governor’s Association survey noting that fully 70% of state homeland security directors are dissatisfied with the specificity of homeland security information they receive from federal sources, and the fully 55% who are disappointed with its actionable quality,” she noted, “the continuing lack of government-wide information sharing guidelines remains a serious challenge that must be addressed immediately.” Lofgren added that, “The DNI’s inappropriate refusal to cooperate with GAO seriously impairs our ability to conduct effective oversight of executive branch information sharing activities. This legislation will help avoid these unfortunate incidents in the future.”
For More Information:
Please contact Dena Graziano or Todd Levett at (202) 226-261