This morning, a group of organizations led by the Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), R Street, and the Sunlight Foundation released a public letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calling for enhanced congressional oversight of U.S. national security surveillance policies.
The letter—signed by over fifty organizations, ranging from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, and a handful of individuals, including Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg—expresses deep concerns about the expansive scope and limited accountability of intelligence activities and agencies, famously exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013. The letter states:
Congress is responsible for authorizing, overseeing, and funding these programs. In recent years, however, the House of Representatives has not always effectively performed its duties.
The time for modernization is now. When the House convenes for the 114th Congress in January and adopts rules, the House should update them to enhance opportunities for oversight by House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (“HPSCI”) members, members of other committees of jurisdiction, and all other representatives. The House should also consider establishing a select committee to review intelligence activities since 9/11. We urge the following reforms be included in the rules package.
The proposed modernization reforms include:
1) modernizing HPSCI membership to more accurately reflect House interests by allowing chairs and ranking members of other committees with intelligence jurisdiction to select a designee on HPSCI;
2) allowing each HPSCI Member to designate a staff member of his or her choosing to represent their interests on the committee, as is the practice in the Senate;
3) making all unclassified intelligence reports quickly available to the public;
4) improving HPSCI the speed and transparency of responsiveness to member requests for information; and
5) improving general HPSCI transparency by better informing members of relevant activities like upcoming closed hearings, legislative markups, and committee activities
The groups also urge reforms to empower all members of Congress to be informed of and involved with executive intelligence agencies’ activities. They are: Continue reading →