Report Offers Timely Blueprint to Strengthen Congressional Oversight of the Intelligence Community

As interest in HPSCI membership grows in both parties, report offers framework to improve Congressional oversight of intelligence community

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 18, 2018
Contact: Daniel Schuman, Policy Director, [email protected], 240-237-3930

Ahead of the November midterm elections that will usher in a new Congress, reporting this week indicates dozens of representatives are seeking membership on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI). On Monday, POLITICO reported that over 70 Republican members and dozens of Democrats have expressed interest in joining the committee.

Since the election of Donald Trump, the House Intelligence Committee has increasingly shifted to a political battleground on matters related to the investigation of Russian election interference and Trump campaign collusion, making membership attractive to lawmakers keen to engage in high-profile partisan clashes.

While the facilitation of a thorough and impartial investigation into election interference and collusion is critical to our democracy, the broader mandate of the committee—to provide a central point of oversight for all intelligence community activities, and to appropriately apprise the entire Congress and inform the public of such activities—must be a top focus for the next Congress. Dramatic reforms to HPSCI and congressional oversight of the Intelligence Community are necessary in order to meet this critical mandate.

“In the incoming Congress, the House Intelligence Committee must be reformed to take into account the views and interests of the broader Congressional membership, as opposed to a select few lawmakers,” said Daniel Schuman, Demand Progress Policy Director. “This entails changes ensuring other committees with jurisdiction over intelligence matters are adequately represented on HPSCI, as well as providing lawmakers who are not part of Congressional leadership greater input on who joins the committee.”

As a 2016 bipartisan report from Demand Progress, R Street, FreedomWorks, and EFF stated, for years experts and policymakers have expressed concern that Congressional oversight efforts—which are crucial to democratic accountability and the prevention of civil liberties abuses—are falling short. The report noted that “current members of Congress, as well as some of the same members and staffers who originally established the intelligence committees, have said the committees and Congress no longer meet their charge.” Since the report’s release, insufficient progress has been made to strengthen the committee.

With a heightened interest in the intelligence committee from members of both parties, Demand Progress is re-elevating the 2016 report, “Strengthening Congressional Oversight of the Intelligence Community,” which includes detailed recommendations to improve staffing, training, and transparency.

As scores of new members seek to join the committee, the report’s guidance on modernizing HPSCI membership remain particularly relevant. Specifically, the report recommends that:

  • The Intelligence Committee chair and ranking member should be nominated by their respective party steering committees and confirmed by members of their conference/caucus.
  • To ensure their interests are represented, the chairman and ranking members of committees with jurisdiction over intelligence matters—Appropriations, Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security, Oversight and Government Reform, and Judiciary—also must serve on the Intelligence Committee or designate a member from each respective committee, to foster a culture of “need to share” instead of a deleterious “need to know” approach on key intelligence matters.
  • To reflect the diverse perspectives of the caucus, each party must choose members of the Intelligence Committee (four for the majority, three for the minority) as follows: any member may nominate him or herself or a colleague to serve on the committee, with a secret-ballot vote whose results are tabulated under a ranked-choice voting system.

Congress must reinvigorate its commitment to provide meaningful oversight of intelligence activities by adopting the reforms detailed in Strengthening Congressional Oversight of the Intelligence Community.”

The full report is available here: https://bit.ly/2yKlx7p

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