The 113th Congress existed from January 2013 to January 2015. At the end of March, 2015, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its annual report on its activities. On April 8, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) released their analysis of that report and its contents.
The FAS analysis is titled Intelligence Oversight in the 113th Congress. It covers some, but not all, of the important areas discussed in the report from the Select Committee. Importantly, it reports on both intelligence matters and on financial accountability measures.
Pushing for Financial Transparency in the IC
Four intelligence agencies had their fiscal 2014 financial statements audited, the CIA, NGA, NRO, and NSA. The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) successfully completed the audit while the other three agencies received “disclaimers of opinion”. In private sector terms, the auditors had to qualify their opinion of the statements based upon accounting or financial issues that could not be resolved.
The DIA and ODNI did not attempt an audit for FY 2014. They plan to do so in 2015.
The report from the Select Committee also revealed that the classified annex of the FY 2014 authorization bill provided for additional interaction between the General Accounting Office and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The GAO was directed to develop “intelligence oversight and reduce unnecessary fragmentation, overlap, and duplication.”
While the so-called “CIA torture report” remains classified, the FAS notes that the three volumes consist of a total of 6,252 pages. Oversight activities noted the increased importance of financial intelligence. Following the money trail is proving to be an effective and powerful tool for addressing criminal and terror threats. The Committee also worked with the Administration to understand the legal basis for lethal counter-terror operations and the extent that they occur.
Little Transparency on Whistleblowers
FAS concludes “The new Senate Intelligence Committee report does not contain any note of critical self-examination or any suggestion that congressional oversight itself might have been complicit in the errors and excesses of intelligence agencies.” They describe as “seeming condescension” a portion of the Committee report that addresses the large number of whistle blower reports the Committee receives. Of the hundreds that the Committee received every year, the Committee staff is said to have investigated and the report notes no actions taken.
The 114th Congress has already made changes. Senator Richard Burr, the new chair of the Select Committee, held the Committee’s annual threat briefing in closed session. This was the first time for a closed session in 20 years.