from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 9
January 23, 2006
** CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT IN THEORY AND IN PRACTICE
** PATRIOT ACT REAUTHORIZATION: A LEGAL ANALYSIS (CRS)
** KINETIC ENERGY KILL FOR BALLISTIC MISSILE DEFENSE (CRS)
** PROTECTION OF CLASSIFIED INFORMATION BY CONGRESS (CRS)
** CIA LIMITS WEB PUBLICATION OF CRITICAL REPORTS
CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT IN THEORY AND IN PRACTICE
The rudiments of Congressional oversight -- its legal basis, its
functions, and the diverse forms it takes -- are concisely described
in a newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service.
"Congressional oversight refers to the review, monitoring, and
supervision of federal agencies, programs, activities, and policy
implementation.... Congress's oversight authority derives from its
'implied' powers in the Constitution, public laws, and House and
Senate rules. It is an integral part of the American system of
checks and balances."
See "Congressional Oversight," updated January 3, 2006:
Integral though it may be, there is a widespread perception that
congressional oversight has atrophied in recent years.
"Everyone recognizes that the failure of congressional oversight was
one of the reasons why we have some of the problems in the
intelligence community today," said Sen. John McCain on NBC Meet the
Press on November 21, 2004.
"We really don't have, still don't have, meaningful congressional
oversight," McCain said.
Last week, Rep. Henry Waxman released two reports that compare
Congress' relentless probing of the Clinton Administration with the
anemic oversight of the present Administration.
"On issue after issue, the Congress has failed to conduct meaningful
investigations of significant allegations of wrongdoing by the Bush
Administration," Rep Waxman wrote. "This approach stands in stark
contrast to the breadth and intrusiveness of congressional
investigations of the Clinton Administration."
See "Congress' Abdication of Oversight," January 17, 2006:
PATRIOT ACT REAUTHORIZATION: A LEGAL ANALYSIS (CRS)
The existing controversy over reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act
-- portions of which will "sunset" if they are not renewed --
acquired a new dimension with the disclosure last month of an NSA
domestic surveillance operation.
Some now argue that the Patriot Act should not be reauthorized before
the Bush Administration's claims of inherent presidential authority
to conduct domestic intelligence surveillance outside of the
framework of law (FISA) are confronted and clarified.
"The extensive new powers requested by the executive branch in its
proposal to extend and enlarge the Patriot Act should under no
circumstances be granted unless and until there are adequate and
enforceable safeguards to protect the Constitution and the rights of
the American people against the kinds of abuses that have so
recently been revealed," said former Vice President Al Gore in a
January 16, 2006 speech.
Much of the Patriot Act is unobjectionable to anyone, and some of it
is positively sensible. But it also has controversial provisions on
"national security letters" as well as several totally extraneous
provisions inserted by House Republicans.
A detailed assessment of the entire piece of legislation was prepared
by the Congressional Research Service. A copy was obtained by
See "USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 (H.R.
3199): A Legal Analysis of the Conference Bill," January 17, 2006:
KINETIC ENERGY KILL FOR BALLISTIC MISSILE DEFENSE (CRS)
A new report from the Congressional Research Service presents a
skeptical overview of the development of kinetic energy interceptors
-- anti-missile missiles -- for defense against incoming ballistic
"The data on the U.S. flight test effort to develop a national
missile defense (NMD) system are mixed and ambiguous. There is no
recognizable pattern to explain this record nor is there conclusive
evidence of a learning curve over more than two decades of
A copy of the new CRS report was obtained by Secrecy News.
See "Kinetic Energy Kill for Ballistic Missile Defense: A Status
Overview," January 18, 2006:
PROTECTION OF CLASSIFIED INFORMATION BY CONGRESS (CRS)
The rules and procedures for protecting classified information in
Congress -- which differ in the House and the Senate -- are
described in another new CRS report.
See "Protection of Classified Information by Congress: Practices and
Proposals," updated January 11, 2006:
CIA LIMITS WEB PUBLICATION OF CRITICAL REPORTS
The Central Intelligence Agency has selectively declined to publish
on its web site at least three unclassified reports produced by the
Center for the Study of Intelligence that present an unflattering
picture of the Agency, US News reported this week.
See "A Tangled Web Woven," by David E. Kaplan, US News and World
Report, January 30, 2006:
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the
Federation of American Scientists.
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