Horn: CIA's stand assaults authority

Horn: CIA's stand assaults authority


House lawmakers, fuming at the CIA's refusal to participate in a recent computer security survey, question whether the rebuff jeopardizes congressional oversight of the agency.

Rep. Steve Horn
Rep. Steve Horn
Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.) said the CIA should not be exempt from providing Congress critical information on security plans and policies for its classified systems. He said every other agency'including other intelligence agencies'has reported comparable information to the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Efficiency, Financial Management and Intergovernmental Relations.

'The agency is assaulting Congress's constitutional responsibility to oversee executive branch activities,' Horn said. 'The CIA believes it is apparently above that basic principle in our Constitution. We do not agree.'

CIA Director George Tenet did not attend the hearing but sent a letter explaining his reasons for noncompliance. Among them was a recent change in House rules that he said gives the House and Senate Permanent Select Committees on Intelligence exclusive oversight of the CIA's sources and methods.

The only other body with oversight authority is the agency's inspector general, he said.

Tenet also said the CIA willingly participates in hundreds of briefings each year'as long as they don't involve divulging how the agency does business.

For your information

The questionnaire on classified systems threats sought to do just that, Tenet's letter contended: 'Although we did not answer directly the information systems security questionnaire you sent me, we did advise you that computer security has been and is a top intelligence community priority.'

He added that the intelligence community is pursuing four initiatives 'to maximize intelligence sharing while protecting infrastructure, sources and methods and data integrity.'

Former CIA director R. James Woolsey and former congressman Lee Hamilton were among the witnesses at the hearing.

Hamilton and Woolsey agreed the subcommittee should work on improving the existing oversight process

'I think the system that we have certainly needs improvement, but be careful not to throw it out unless you have something better,' Hamilton cautioned.


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