Last week, the Intelligence Committee Management Subcommittee held a hearing
examining the provisions in the National Security Act of 1947 that establish how the
Executive Branch keeps Congress informed of intelligence activities. This hearing comes
as a welcome follow up, so we can examine how the Executive Branch has implemented
those provisions, and how they interpret the statute.
As I said last week, the Executive Branch's obligation to keep the Committee
fully and currently informed is a solemn one. Congress has a right to know -- and the
Executive Branch has a duty to share the information necessary for Congress to authorize
and appropriate funds and oversee the activities of the federal government, including
intelligence activities, to ensure that taxpayer funds are wisely spent.
Last week we heard that the relationship works best when the Executive Branch
takes in good faith its obligation to share full and complete information about intelligence
activities with the Committee. In many cases, Congress provides the only outside
oversight on intelligence activities, and thus its role is all the more crucial in checking
executive excesses or strengthening plans.
We examined the statute, and we focused on a number of phrases where the law is
ambiguous. Some in the Executive Branch could use that lack of clarity to circumvent
their obligations to inform Congress. We need to understand how the agencies interpret
their obligation to keep the Committees "fully and currently" informed, what kinds of
intelligence activities they consider "significant," and how they view the obligation to
inform, rather than merely notify.
I want to understand how the agencies interpret the phrase "significant." Last
week's witnesses explained the factors that make an intelligence activity significant are
those are approved at high levels of leadership, or are particularly sensitive, or are likely
to have serious foreign policy implications. I'd also like to understand whether the
agencies are basing any of their decisions to inform Congress on whether an activity is
"operational." As we heard last week, that phrase is not in the statute and should not be
used to decide what information should be shared with the intelligence Committees.
Mr. Litt, I hope you will shed light on how the Intelligence Community
implements its obligation to keep the Committees fully and currently informed. I'm also
looking forward to hearing about some of the changes that the Intelligence Community is
considering to improve its congressional notification practices so that the failures of the
past do not repeat themselves.
Again, thank you for being here Mr. Litt, and I yield back the balance of my time.