WASHINGTON—Last night, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) announced the committee has approved by a vote of 13-2 the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014.
The legislation authorizes intelligence funding to counter terrorist threats, prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, enhance counterintelligence, conduct covert actions and collect and analyze intelligence around the world. The bill reflects the committee’s oversight over the past year and its consideration of the president’s budgetary and legislative requests.
The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 includes important provisions to enhance the conduct, accountability and oversight of the intelligence activities of the United States, including:
· Providing important measures to protect against insider threats by adding necessary funds to deploy information technology detection systems across the Intelligence Community;
· Empowering the Director of National Intelligence to improve the government’s process to investigate (and reinvestigate) individuals with security clearances to access classified information;
· Instituting new statutory protections that protect the ability of legitimate whistleblowers to bring concerns directly to the attention of lawmakers, inspectors general and intelligence community leaders;
· Making the director and inspector general of the National Security Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office subject to presidential appointment and Senate confirmation;
· Requiring the Department of Justice to inform the intelligence committees of all Office of Legal Counsel opinions pertaining to the conduct of intelligence activities;
· Making permanent a requirement that the executive branch notify Congress when making authorized disclosures of intelligence information to the public;
· Recommending the relaxation of imagery resolution restrictions currently in place on the U.S. commercial satellite industry and a review to determine the appropriate role of commercial satellite imagery in fulfilling intelligence requirements; and
· Extending the charter of the Public Interest Declassification Board, an advisory committee established by Congress in 2000, to promote the fullest possible public access to a thorough record of U.S. national security decisions and activities.
Intelligence collection is strengthened through the classified annex to the bill including additional funding for a number of collection priorities. It also seeks to ensure that funds are spent responsibly by renewing the committee’s push for financial auditability, budgetary responsibility in the intelligence community’s new development of information technology and eliminating unnecessary or duplicative spending.
Chairman Feinstein said: “Once enacted, the bill passed by the committee today will be the fifth consecutive authorization bill after six years without passage of an authorization bill. We recognize that budget reductions and sequestration are impacting our intelligence agencies, and Congress has a responsibility to ensure the DNI and other intelligence leaders have the resources and flexibility they need to protect the nation.”
Vice Chairman Chambliss said: “As our nation continues to face threats from all over the world, it is essential our intelligence collection and analytic capabilities are able to tackle the challenges that lie ahead. However, with our debt at $17 trillion and growing, we face stark budget realities that demand wise and efficient use of taxpayer dollars. This year’s intelligence authorization bill achieves both objectives by providing clear guidance and appropriate resources to the intelligence community, while enhancing the committee’s oversight of vital intelligence activities.”
Last week, the committee approved legislation to increase privacy protections and transparency for collection and surveillance operations by a vote of 11-4. The committee expects to produce cybersecurity legislation shortly to promote and enhance information sharing between companies and the government.