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?

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  • icon
    Mat (profile), 7 Oct 2016 @ 12:11pm

    *Checks clock and GPS and what not*

    Did I stumble through a portal to an alternate dimension?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2016 @ 12:19pm

    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.

    There's a distinction between "oversight" and "meaningful oversight". The PCLOB provides the former, and effectively acts as cover for various intelligence agencies. "The oversight board hasn't complained about X, Y, and Z, so therefore it's ok." or "We've evaluated their recommendations and opted to implement X portion of them."

    Remove or weaken that, and down the road, political backlash just might result in "meaningful oversight", and the IC wants to avoid _that_ at all costs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2016 @ 12:19pm

    My guess is that the intelligence community wants to keep the ineffectual oversight it has now, rather than reduce it and risk that leading to the creation of effective oversight in the future. The devil you know and all that.

    Plus they probably like to be able to claim that they have oversight, therefore their actions are totally okay. Reduce or remove their "oversight" and they suddenly no longer have that claim to shield them from criticism and make them feel good about themselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2016 @ 12:26pm

    Privacy and Civil Liberties Overlook Board

    'Could it really be that the two Congressional committees in Congress in charge of "oversight^H^H^H^H^Hlook" for the intelligence community want even less oversight than the intelligence community itself?'

    The warmer & fuzzier NSA has decided it needs a figleaf overlook board to quelch more aggressive opposition.

    Even Potemkin Villages satisfy the useful idiots of the mainstream press.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2016 @ 12:29pm

    Destined for regulatory capture

    While they've been putting out good stuff now, these sort of boards seem to end up being staffed by alumni of the orgs they oversee.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2016 @ 3:24pm

      Re: Destined for regulatory capture

      I have to agree that such boards easily gets staffed by people with "experience" in the field and since it is a narrow and closed pool to recruit from, you basically end up with the same type of people being appointed again and again.

      In this case I think Clapper is mostly comfortable with the current members and would rather avoid ad hoc supervision by people he doesn't trust in the future. Also, a mostly positive review of EO 12333 might end up as a good moral schtick to beat foreign secret services with.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2016 @ 12:37pm

    It's a sTRAP... on!

    Bend over real gently now! Pay no mind to the things going on behind the scenes... it's smoke and mirrors time!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    briny, 7 Oct 2016 @ 1:04pm

    EU

    To which you can can add the fallout from Snowden, Schrem v. Facebook, the Yahoo NSA email fiasco and hack... all driving their initiatives. NSA, FBI, DEA,... can all point at the PCLOB.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John Mayor, 7 Oct 2016 @ 2:07pm

    WHOSE COMMUNITY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT

    MY "Intelligence Community", comprises the Business Primary Sector, NGO+NPO Primary Sector and the Bureaucratic Primary Sector SECURITY STAKEHOLDERS (D-I-V-O-R-C-E-D O-F P-O-L-I-T-I-C-I-A-N-S!... A-N-D P-O-L-I-T-I-C-A-L I-N-F-L-U-E-N-C-E!... P-E-R-I-O-D!)!... A-N-D W-I-T-H A-B-S-O-L-U-T-E-L-Y N-O D-E-F-E-R-E-N-C-E-- A-S F-A-R A-S I-'-M C-O-N-C-E-R-N-E-D!-- T-O A-N-Y "I-N-T-E-L-L-I-G-E-N-C-E A-N-D/ O-R C-O-N-G-R-E-S-S-I-O-N-A-L C-O-M-M-U-N-I-T-Y" T-H-A-T D-O-E-S-N-'-T R-E-P-R-E-S-E-N-T A-L-L T-H-R-E-E P-R-I-M-A-R-Y S-E-C-T-O-R-S!
    .
    And so... if Congress and/ or the "Intelligence Community" doesn't comprise the right members at their respective tables, I could care less what their pursuits are re the legislation in question!... my aim-- then!-- is to do an "end-run" around either, or both!
    .
    Please!... no emails!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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