White House agrees to share covert operations information with more members of Congresshttp://www.washingtonpost.com/
Senate and House intelligence committee leaders and the White House have agreed on measures that would require the administration to share information on covert operations with a larger group of overseers, congressional sources said Monday.
The compromise might mean that Congress will pass an intelligence authorization bill this year, the first time since 2004.
According to a draft bill that the House sent the Senate on Friday, the White House would be required to notify the full membership of both congressional intelligence committees of presidential directives to conduct covert action, known as "findings." At present, the administration is required to notify only the so-called Gang of Eight, the chairmen and ranking members of each committee and the party leadership in both chambers.
But the new language still gives the White House flexibility, including a 180-day period in which to notify all 22 House and 15 Senate intelligence committee members of a finding.
The White House can defer full notification even longer, according to the bill, if it provides "a statement of reasons that it is essential to continue to limit access" because of "extraordinary circumstances affecting vital interests of the United States."
Some provisions of the bill are carryovers from previous drafts, such as the requirement that the White House provide the legal grounds for certain intelligence operations and estimates of whether "significant" costs or a "significant risk of loss of life" might be involved.
The new draft also includes a provision for "the head of a department or agency of the United States with responsibility for a cybersecurity program" authorized by presidential findings to report on the legality of its operations.
The compromise was first reported by Congressional Quarterly on Monday. White House officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Sources said that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has retreated from a proposal by Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) to give the Government Accountability Office the authority to audit the performance of the CIA and other intelligence agencies. This provision and others in earlier versions had provoked veto threats from the administration.
The compromise measure requires only that the president and the GAO formulate rules on the investigators' future access to the intelligence agencies.
Congressional Democrats and Republicans who confirmed the broad outlines of the bill Monday at first did so only on condition of anonymity, because of the sensitive state of the negotiations.
But Monday evening, Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.), vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said he was on board with the new language.
"We can do more to protect Americans from attack," he said in a statement, "and passing the intelligence authorization bill and improving congressional oversight over our spy agencies is an important first step."Passage could come as early as this week, congressional sources said, as Democrats move to "hotline," or expedite, a Senate amendment to the House bill. If that is successful, the measure will go back to the House for passage.