IN A DRAMATIC moment on the Senate floor Monday afternoon, as the upper chamber rushed a spending bill through to end the government shutdown, the top Republican and Democrat on the Intelligence Committee warned that the bill contains language that would kneecap Congress’s ability to oversee secret covert actions and surveillance programs. Their effort to amend the language was rebuffed.
The intelligence community, in its latest grasp, has gone too far even for Richard Burr. The Republican chair of the Senate Intelligence committee has long been one of the Senate’s staunchest advocates for the intelligence agencies, leading the fight to reauthorize surveillance programs and fighting to bury the results of the Senate’s five-year investigation into CIA torture. But he took to the Senate floor Monday to warn that it would compromise Congress’s ability to oversee secret intelligence programs.
“This language could erode the powers of the authorizing committee,” Burr said. “Effectively, the intelligence community could expend funds as it sees fit without an authorization bill in place and with no statutory direction indicating that an authorization bill for 2018 is forthcoming.”

A three-week spending bill that ended this month’s government shutdown allegedly allows tens of billions of dollars in “black budget” appropriations to be sloshed among secret intelligence agency programs without longstanding congressional notification requirements.
The change is creating unusual allies and consternation among lawmakers who traditionally oversee secretive technology purchases, weapons deals, and covert operations by the intelligence agencies.
The controversial measure amends previous legislation that funded the government by waiving a reporting provision in place since 1947 for intelligence spending.
The waived requirement says: “Appropriated funds available to an intelligence agency may be obligated or expended for an intelligence or intelligence-related activity only if those funds were specifically authorized by the Congress for use for such activities.”
Members of the intelligence committees often are the only people to know details about how secretly appropriated funds are used. Under the waived law, agencies must notify the committees if they reroute spending or spend unallocated funds.
The new wording was requested by the White House Office of Management and Budget at the urging of the Pentagon and was backed by House and Senate appropriations committee leaders over the strident opposition of intelligence committee leadership.
A congressional source working in an office that backed the measure argued it won’t diminish oversight powers, and that the White House was specifically interested in clarifying how recently appropriated missile defense funds can be used.
“There seems to be a misunderstanding about what this provision does,” the staffer said, arguing it “does not give the intelligence community a blank check at all” and is intended only to modify a section of law pertaining to missile defense because “without this provision the intelligence community would be unable to spend those funds until passage of an intelligence authorization bill and we do not know when that will be. ”
“The intelligence community is required to spend these funds as requested in their budget amendment submission,” the staffer continued. “If they want to deviate from that submission, they would have to submit a congressional notification or reprogramming and all four intelligence oversight committees [the House and Senate intelligence and House and Senate appropriations defense subcommittees] and all four committees would have to sign off on those notifications before funds can be spent.”
Intelligence committee leaders have a strongly differing interpretation.
“Essentially the intelligence community could expend funds as it sees fit,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., warned about the change on the Senate floor Monday. “A situation like this is untenable.”
Senate intelligence panel Ranking Member Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., warned covert operations could be funded without oversight and the House Intelligence Committee’s GOP leadership also opposed the wording.…le/2646894
h/t prosthetic brain

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  1. What’s the difference between the military and HUD spending $21 trillion having no idea where it went and the intelligence agencies spending money with no oversight. Seems like the same thing to me. This is just more of the same but just wrapped a little differently.


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