Recommendations and Actions
Current efforts to provide oversight of the Intelligence Community (IC) may be traced to the mid-1950s. It was at this time that the President's Board of Consultants on Foreign Intelligence Activities was established by Executive Order. This board was reconstituted as the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) by John F. Kennedy. The primary purpose of the PFIAB was, and remains, assessing the quality of the U.S. intelligence effort. Understandably, the PFIAB has taken a low profile.
The President's Intelligence Oversight Board (PIOB) was created in late 1981 by Executive Order 12334. The PIOB is the direct descendent of the Intelligence Oversight Board, formed in 1976 by Gerald R. Ford. The Ford administration established the Intelligence Oversight Board to address concerns that there was no office specifically charged with ensuring that U.S. intelligence efforts are legal and proper. In short, the PFIAB addressed the quality of intelligence efforts, but did not evaluate the appropriateness of those activities. In the words of Executive Order 12334, which created the most recent version of the PIOB, its purpose was "to enhance the security of the United States by assuring the legality of activities of the Intelligence Community."
The PIOB is composed of three private citizens appointed by the President and has remained traditionally bipartisan. While not a requirement, until recently most members of the PIOB were chosen from the PFIAB membership. Since 1981, the PIOB has had a full-time staff consisting of a counsel and one management security officer. The counsel conducts the day-to-day business of the board. Consultants and special counsel have been used in the past, but on an unpaid basis. The staff is detailed from other agencies, and detailees are paid by their home office. The PIOB budget request for 1994 is $76,000, primarily for travel, rent, telephone, and supplies and equipment. Board members are unpaid.
The functions of the PIOB include:
--- Informing the President of any intelligence activities believed to be in violation of the Constitution or any law, order, or directive.
--- Forwarding to the Attorney General reports of intelligence activities believed to be unlawful.
--- Reviewing the internal guidelines of each member of the Intelligence Community.
--- Reviewing the oversight practices and procedures of the Intelligence Community inspectors general and general counsels.
--- Conducting investigations to carry out these functions.
At one time the Intelligence Community (defined here as the Central Intelligence Agency and elements of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Department of Treasury, and the Department of Energy) was required to submit quarterly reports to the PIOB. This requirement is no longer in effect. However, the board and the Intelligence Community have maintained the quarterly reporting system. This voluntary reporting appears beneficial both to the agencies and the President. The need to report to the board on a regular basis encourages each organization to improve its own oversight mechanisms. In addition, the President is also served by having an independent body review activities that may be questionable. The PIOB is under no pressure to support particular constituents. However, it is to ensure that the President is advised of their independent evaluations of the suitability of any proposed operations.
An analysis of current operations and past history seems to indicate that a separate review board is not necessary. As noted above, many members of the PIOB have been selected from the PFIAB. In this sense, the PIOB has been very much like a subcommittee of the PFIAB.
The oversight function of the PIOB appears to be an extension of the functions of the PFIAB. In other words, the PIOB was chartered to ensure that the legality of intelligence activities was considered by an independent body in addition to the evaluation of their quality by the PFIAB. The effectiveness of the PIOB lies in the access of its members to the President. They have the right and the duty to report to the President any intelligence activity they consider inappropriate under the Constitution and the laws of the United States. In the past, this access to the President has not been diminished for members of the PIOB who are also members of the PFIAB.
Therefore, terminating the PIOB and assigning its functions to the PFIAB would not interfere with the review and oversight role intended for PIOB members. The independent oversight function in terms of the legality of intelligence activities can be carried out by a standing subcommittee of the PFIAB as well as by a separate board. The essential requirement is that the PIOB members understand their function and have access to the President.
Another factor to consider is that the PIOB has created a sensitivity to the requirement for the Intelligence Community to be self-policing. Quarterly reporting to the PIOB serves as an internal check. For example, one manager reported that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Office of the General Counsel has increased its oversight function exponentially since the PIOB reporting requirements began. Merging the PIOB into the PFIAB would not directly affect these reporting requirements. There would be a technical change in the recipient of the reporting--a standing subcommittee as opposed to a separate board--but the impact on agencies would remain the same. They would still be required to report to an outside entity that they know has direct access to the President.
In summary, the PIOB is a separate board created for a specific purpose, but it can function just as well as a subcommittee of the PFIAB.
The President should issue an Executive Order to terminate the PIOB and assign its functions to a standing subcommittee of the PFIAB. Implications
The elimination of the PIOB would not cause any decrease in oversight of the Intelligence Community. It would serve to strengthen oversight by combining this function in one entity--the PFIAB. Having one board clearly responsible for all aspects of intelligence oversight gives increased importance to that function. It is clear that having two presidential boards overseeing the Intelligence Community has caused confusion in the past. The elimination of the PIOB staff should result in the elimination of a certain amount of duplication. The PFIAB should require full-time counsel if it is to perform the assigned functions of the current PIOB. The support staff functions can be assumed by the present PFIAB staff.
The fiscal impact of eliminating the PIOB is slight and cannot be specifically estimated. Since members serve without compensation, there would be no savings associated with their termination. The staff is detailed, and their salaries would continue to be paid. In effect, the PIOB counsel would move to the PFIAB. A portion of the PIOB's $76,000 annual operating budget could be saved by combining its administrative costs with those of the PFIAB. Staff, other than the counsel, employed by the PIOB may return to their home agency. This may not be a direct cost savings, but is certainly a more effective use of scarce personnel resources.
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