Surprise: Intelligence Community Comes Out Against Congressional Plan To Weaken Intelligence Oversight
from the hmmmm dept
Well, this is somewhat unexpected. Earlier this year, we noted that Congress was working on a plan to undermine the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). But apparently, the Intelligence Community, in the form of Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, is against this idea.
The PCLOB was initially created as part of the PATRIOT Act, but was basically given no real power. In 2007, Congress finally gave it a bit more power and independence, only to watch both the Bush and Obama administrations ignore it by not appointing anyone to the board. That finally changed in 2012 — just in time for the Snowden leaks (though it has been without a chairperson, since the last one left earlier this year). The PCLOB then put out a scathing report about the NSA’s mass surveillance on Americans under the Section 215 program, though it wasn’t as concerned about PRISM and upstream collection under the Section 702 program. For years now, the PCLOB has supposedly been investigating surveillance under Executive Order 12333, which we’ve been told by insiders is the main program the NSA relies on for surveillance (the others just fill in the gaps).
A key part of the “reform” from Congress, beyond cutting funding, would be to limit the PCLOB to only reviewing surveillance on Americans, which would basically cut off its ability to study EO 12333.
We certainly found it concerning that Congress would seek to pull the rug out from under the PCLOB, but we certainly didn’t expect James Clapper to agree with us. And yet…
The intelligence community “strongly opposes” part of the proposed legislation seeking to limit the jurisdiction of PCLOB to the privacy rights of Americans, and not foreigners, the letter, signed by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, reads.
PCLOB is “uniquely situated” to give advice to spy agencies on how to respect global privacy interests, and limiting its authority “is a significant step backward from the reforms that the president has directed.”
The letter apparently also suggests that President Obama would veto such a bill if it came across his desk. This is a bit of a surprise all around. At the very least, it does make you wonder how the House and Senate Intelligence Committees will continue to support the idea of undermining the PCLOB when not even the intelligence community itself is fine with it. Could it really be that the two Congressional committees in Congress in charge of “oversight” for the intelligence community want even less oversight than the intelligence community itself?