Congress is charged with authorizing, funding, and overseeing intelligence programs, including mass surveillance by the NSA. In recent years, however, the House of Representatives hasn’t lived up to its oversight responsibility. On December 17, TechFreedom joined a bipartisan coalition of over 50 organizations and individuals urging Congress to modernize its oversight rules and establish a select committee to review intelligence activities since 9/11.
The coalition also released a white paper highlighting the acute need for reforms:
The last decade-and-a-half has witnessed major intelligence community failures. From the inability to connect the dots on 9/11 to false claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, from the unlawful commission of torture to the inability to predict the Arab spring, from lying to Congress about the NSA to CIA surveillance of Senate staff, the intelligence community has a credibility gap. Moreover, with recent revelations about secret government activities, to the apparent surprise of many members of Congress, it is increasingly clear that Congress has not engaged in effective oversight of the intelligence community.
Congress can help close intelligence agencies’ credibility gap through commonsense reforms, starting with proper training and assistance for congressmen on how to effectively oversee classified matters. The House must also empower its members and their staff to discuss public information, even if deemed classified by the executive branch.
Whistle-blowers must be able to speak to any members of Congress or staff designees without fear of reprisal. And Congress should establish a distinct, broad-based review of the activities of the intelligence community since 9/11, modeled after the 9-11 Commission. Only through these and other reforms can Congress, and the intelligence agencies they oversee, regain the trust of the American people.