Congress To Investigate CIA For Possible Violations Of National Security Act
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WASHINGTON – Members of Congress have begun an investigation into allegations that the CIA intentionally violated the National Security Act of 1947 by misleading them about its intelligence activities and programs on several occasions, including the agency’s use of torture and the destruction of interrogation videotapes. The Act requires the president and his intelligence agencies to keep Congress “fully and currently informed” about all U.S. intelligence activities. House Intelligence Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairwoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Subcommittee on Intelligence Community Management Chairwoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) will investigate the adequacy and truthfulness of the CIA’s congressional briefings, spurred by the allegation earlier this year that Congress was not notified about a Bush administration program to assassinate top al Qaeda members.
The American Civil Liberties Union strongly supports such an investigation given the extreme importance of protecting Congress’ legal right to be informed of programs that could impact constitutional and humanitarian rights. Additionally, the ACLU is also urging the establishment of a select committee with subpoena power to review past and present national security laws and activities and help adopt fair standards for the future.
A bill was introduced in the House earlier this year that would establish such a committee. The Select Committee on National Security and Civil Liberties Act of 2009, introduced by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and Robert Wexler (D-FL), would study the development, implementation and effectiveness of past and present U.S. government practices.
The following can be attributed to Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:
“Congress cannot perform its constitutional obligations if the CIA or any part of the executive branch deliberately withholds crucial details or, worse, knowingly provides false information to it, and we must find out if this has occurred. Congress has a duty to fulfill its own investigatory role and must serve as a check on the other two branches. We commend members who have undertaken to vigorously pursue full disclosure of executive branch abuses – but more is needed.
“When Congress can’t perform its oversight role because it does not have all the facts, the only thing Americans can count on is that their rights are no longer secure. Americans deserve to know what is done in their name and to be involved in and informed about the debate over the limits of governmental power, and Congress plays a crucial role in protecting that flow of information.”
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The ACLU’s National Security Project is dedicated to ensuring that U.S. national security policies and practices are consistent with the Constitution, civil liberties, and human rights.