Report Released on the Oversight of the Intelligence Community, 2011-2013

senate seal

On March 22, 2013, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its latest biennial report outlining its oversight activities from the period of January 5, 2011 to January 3, 2013. Charged with carrying out oversight of the programs and activities of the U.S. Intelligence Community since 1976, the Committee seeks to “provide as much information as possible to the American public about [these] intelligence oversight activities” through its reports.

Some examples of oversight activities in this report include:
• “the examination of intelligence support to U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq;
• The continued study of the threats posed by Iran;
• A review of the successful raid against Usama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan;
• Consideration of legislative proposals designed to counter the unauthorized disclosure of classified information to the media; and
• Sustained concern about the cybersecurity threat.”

Highlights of the report include the current state of U.S.-Pakistan relations, especially following the killing of Usama Bin Laden and “the cross-border incident in November 2011 where Pakistani troops were inadvertently killed by U.S. forces.” As stated in the report, “bilateral relations with Pakistan hit their lowest ebb in recent times during this period” which has led to “a seven-month suspension of the military ground lines of communication that support the allied war effort in Afghanistan.” According to the Committee, this breakdown may have serious consequences on “U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the terrorist safe haven in Pakistan’s tribal regions” during the 113th Congress term.

Additionally, the Committee’s report indicates that unauthorized disclosure of classified information, especially to the media, was a major concern during the 112th Congress. The Committee held a hearing and numerous staff briefings in order “to examine IC [Intelligence Community] and law enforcement efforts to prevent and investigate unauthorized disclosures, as well as to prosecute […] those determined to be responsible for such disclosures.” As a result of these efforts, the Committee created a provision (Section 504) to require government officials to notify them of authorized disclosures, so that unauthorized disclosures of national security can be more easily identified and responded to.

The report also indicates that in addition to counterterrorism, counterproliferation, and counterintelligence, DNI (Director of National Intelligence) James R. Clapper added cybersecurity as a fourth major category of threats that face the United States. Clapper asserts that cyber threats “‘pose a critical national and economic security concern due to the continued advances in – and growing dependency on -…information technology (IT),” as well as cloud computing technology. In response to this concern, the Committee held four hearings on cybersecurity-related matters with the intent of keeping the Committee “informed of the government’s cybersecurity programs and the private sector’s cyber capabilities, vulnerabilities, and concerns.”

Finally, the report includes details on the forthcoming Committee report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, a study that has been long-awaited since the 2007 media accusation that the CIA “had possessed and destroyed videotapes of the interrogations of CIA detainees.” The new 6,000 page report, approved on December 13, 2012, will be split into three parts: I. History and Operation of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program; II. Intelligence Acquired and CIA Representations on the Effectiveness of the CIA’s Enhanced Interrogation Techniques; and III. Detention and Interrogation of Detainees.

According to the FAS (Federation of American Scientists) blog post, incumbent CIA director John O. Brennan had this say about the study: “‘There were clearly a number of things, many things, that I read in that report that were very concerning and disturbing to me,'” specifically about “‘mismanagement of the program, misrepresentations of the information, [and] providing inaccurate information.'” Whether this report will be made public, however, depends on its further review by the White House, the CIA, and other executive branch agencies. More insight on the IC response to this study, as well as the Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence, can be found on the FAS blog page.

Article formerly posted at