Groups Demand Congress Really Oversee Intelligence Agencies

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Casey Harper Contributor
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Dozens of organizations from across the political spectrum are demanding reforms that will allow Congress to rein in intelligence agencies.

More than 50 organizations and experts signed a letter sent Wednesday to House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi asking for better congressional oversight of intelligence activities.

The signatories include Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, The Competitive Enterprise Institute, Demand Progress, Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law as well as a few whistle-blowers and civil liberties advocates.

The letter says that lawmakers have “not always effectively done their duties” and lays out significant steps for reform. The signatories point out that much of what the intelligence community does is secret, not only to the public, but also to members of Congress. This makes real oversight difficult, if not impossible.

Notably, the groups want to create a culture where all members of Congress are fully informed on intelligence activities so that a select few on the intelligence committees are not gatekeepers of the information..

The recommended reforms include allowing congressmen to speak with whistle-blowers without reprisal and giving each member of Congress a staffer with a high security clearance.

Nathan Leamer from the R Street Institute, a group that signed the letter, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that intelligence information gets bottled up in the intelligence committees. Congressmen end up having outdated or even incorrect information. When outside groups contradict the intelligence committees, Congress has little information to go on.

“Do you trust just the intelligence committee or are we going to trust all members of Congress to know what they are voting on?” Leamer asked.

Leamer said the letter has received positive feedback from multiple members of Congress.

“For far too long, the intelligence community has eluded the accountability essential to a democracy,” CREW policy director Daniel Schuman said in a press release.

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