Are the Keepers of our national/international intelligence apparatus so omnipotent they've essentially become infallible?
Let's break that question down. In the span of over six years, what are the chances that no one in our vast national intelligence community has ever analyzed the wrong person's metadata, or read the wrong person's email, or listened to the wrong person's phone calls, whether it was by mistake or it was deliberate?
Apparently, all DNIs since 2007, (including current DNI James Clapper) thought/thinks the chances are zero. Therefore, no accountability reviews have been held at all.
In 2007, Congress passed legislation to grant the Director of National Intelligence “new authority to conduct accountability reviews of significant failures or deficiencies with the Intelligence Community.” Up to now, however, that authority has never been exercised.So, it was roughly four years after Congress granted the authorities to [then] DNI Mike McConnell that [current DNI] James Clapper finally drew up a Directive stating guidelines for the execution of those authorities.
In 2011, the DNI issued Intelligence Community Directive (ICD) 111 on “Accountability Reviews.” That recently disclosed Directive “establishes policy and procedures governing the conduct of such reviews.”
“It is essential that alleged failures or deficiencies involving an IC element or senior IC personnel in the management or execution of IC missions be carefully reviewed and fully resolved,” DNI James R. Clapper wrote in ICD 111.
But in response to a query about how many accountability reviews have been conducted, and on which topics, Michael G. Birmingham of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence this week said that “There have been no accountability reviews conducted under the authorities in ICD 111.”Feel safer now?
But someone considered the possibilities for abuse and mistakes. Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) perceived a lack of internal accountability for failures in the intelligence community, and quickly drew up legislation to address them.
“This enhancement to the authority of the Director of National Intelligence is warranted given the apparent reluctance of various elements of the Intelligence Community to hold their agencies or personnel accountable for significant failures or deficiencies,” according to the Senate Intelligence Committee reporton the FY 2008 Intelligence Authorization Act (section 401, p. 16).Rockefeller's provision, which began as section 408 of the FY 2008 Intelligence Authorization Act, passed through both houses of Congress. President Bush decided to veto the bill but the provision was later enacted into law as Section 102A(f)(7) of the National Security Act (pdf). The committee released a statement when the provision passed.
“Recent history provides several examples of serious failures to adhere to sound analytic tradecraft,” the Committee report said. “In its reviews of both the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the faulty Iraq prewar assessments on weapons of mass destruction, the Committee found specific examples of these failures yet no one within the Intelligence Community has been held accountable. Other examples of a lack of accountability within the Intelligence Community can be found by examining the history of certain major system acquisition programs. Despite clear management failures that resulted in significant cost overruns and unreasonable scheduling delays, these programs continue to stumble along without any imposition of accountability.”
“The Committee hopes that this modest increase in the Director of National Intelligence’s authorities will encourage elements within the Intelligence Community to put their houses in order by imposing accountability for significant failures and deficiencies,” the Senate Committee report said.Not to be outdone, the office of the DNI released a counter statement, apparently in a show of faith in the thousands and thousands of subordinates in the field who would never ever make a mistake or misuse the data collection process in any way.
The ICD stated that accountability reviews would not be conducted (“except in extraordinary circumstances”) or would be deferred whenever the same issues were under review by law enforcement, inspectors general or other investigative bodies.But there is a bright side. In the "I can't believe this wasn't always the case" department, Mr. Clapper threw us civil liberty fans a bone.
Earlier this month, the Director of National Intelligence issued another Intelligence Community Directive on the subject of Outside Employment. ICD 117, dated 09 June 2013, implements a statutory requirement “prohibiting IC personnel from engaging in outside employment if such employment creates a conflict of interest or the appearance thereof.”Open this process up, Mr. Clapper. The entire intelligence community needs to be reviewed completely... in the glow of glorious, resplendent sunshine.
Sunshine is in no short supply on this earth. Only the collective will of our government to bathe in it.