WASHINGTON (Dec. 17, 2014) — Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the R Street Institute, the Sunlight Foundation and 50 additional organizations and individuals today called on congressional leaders for much-needed oversight reform of intelligence collection.
The letter—sent to Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.—is accompanied by a report from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington that expands on the recommendations and details the extreme need and urgency for swift action by the House of Representatives.
The groups’ call comes on the heels of the release of the redacted Senate torture report, the disturbing details of which emphasize the need to empower congressional oversight of intelligence activities.
“These important oversight reforms will lay the groundwork for a more informed debate over looming national security questions by empowering members of Congress to make better informed decisions for themselves and their constituents,” said R Street Policy Analyst Nathan Leamer.
Outdated rules currently pose an obstacle to members who seek to access information about intelligence collection and to provide adequate oversight. Proposed solutions include giving a greater number representatives with experience in appropriations, judiciary, armed forces and other relevant matters a seat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence—the committee charged with overseeing intelligence collection.
“For far too long, the intelligence community has eluded the accountability essential to a democracy,” said CREW Policy Director Daniel Schuman. “These recommendations empower members of Congress to engage in the oversight necessary to check executive power and keep the people informed about what government is doing in their name.”
There is consensus on the need for these changes among good government groups from across the political spectrum, and it is broadly understood across Congress.
The letter also urges House leadership to ensure the select committee has adequate staffing with appropriate clearances to access and review intelligence information. Non-committee members also should be able to communicate with and retrieve information from the committee in order to exercise their oversight duties and make informed votes on intelligence issues.
“The Obama administration has claimed the current rules are sufficient, but they inhibit members from knowing, much less understanding, the activities of the intelligence community,” said Sunlight Foundation Federal Policy Manager Sean Vitka. “The existing rules actively prevent effective oversight, especially among members who are not currently seated on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.”
For a copy of the full letter and a list of signers, go here.