July 18, 2007

In Intelligence World, A Mute Watchdog

You may have heard the news that the CIA released the “Family Jewels,” a set of previously classified documents that showed that the agency had a long long history of abusing its power, and had a long history of being manipulated by political figures, much like it has been now. The CIA of yesteryear seems to be more like the CIA of today than we ever thought possible however; apparently during the first five and a half years of the Bush Administration, a special independant panel that was set up back in the days when the “Family Jewels” were taking place to ensure that the CIA did not abuse its power – and if it did that it would send word of those abuses to the Department of Justice – didn’t feel like it was necessary to file a single report whatsoever.

So at the hieght of the Bush Administration’s abusing the CIA to perform extraordinary renditions, spy on Americans without court orders, spy on foriegn nationals without cause, detain American citizens without charging them, the special panel that was supposed to report these offenses to the DoJ didnt utter a word.

An independent oversight board created to identify intelligence abuses after the CIA scandals of the 1970s did not send any reports to the attorney general of legal violations during the first 5 1/2 years of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism effort, the Justice Department has told Congress.

Although the FBI told the board of a few hundred legal or rules violations by its agents after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the board did not identify which of them were indeed legal violations. This spring, it forwarded reports of violations in 2006, officials said.

The President’s Intelligence Oversight Board — the principal civilian watchdog of the intelligence community — is obligated under a 26-year-old executive order to tell the attorney general and the president about any intelligence activities it believes “may be unlawful.” The board was vacant for the first two years of the Bush administration.

The FBI sent copies of its violation reports directly to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. But the board’s mandate is to provide independent oversight, so the absence of such communications has prompted critics to question whether the board was doing its job.

“It’s now apparent that the IOB was not actively employed in the early part of the administration. And it was a crucial period when its counsel would seem to have been needed the most,” said Anthony Harrington, who served as the board’s chairman for most of the Clinton administration.

“The White House counsel’s office and the attorney general should have known and been concerned if they did not detect an active and effective IOB,” Harrington said.

Apparently the board was employed during the Clinton Administration, but as soon as GWB settled into the White House, he apparently decided that oversight was no longer necessary. This is in line with everythink that we know about the Administration up to this point, and it jives with the defensive reaction that they give Congress every time they try to perform their oversight duties, but it implies that the Bush Administration had their desire to operate in secrecy and with a lack of transparency high on the agenda list as soon as they took office, long before Sept. 11, 2001, for example.

[ In Intelligence World, A Mute Watchdog ]

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