House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

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The United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is a committee of the United States House of Representatives, currently chaired by Silvestre Reyes. It is the primary committee in the U.S. House of Representatives charged with the oversight of the United States Intelligence Community, though it does share some jurisdiction with other committees in the House, including the Armed Services Committee for some matters dealing with the Department of Defense and the various branches of the U.S. military.

Members of the
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,
111th Congress
Democrats: Republicans:

Oversight and Investigations

Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) corruption probe

On August 10, 2006, the committee announced that an internal investigation found that "major breakdowns" in legislative controls enabled former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) to use his position on the committee to direct classified government contracts to political, business, and personal associates. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), ranking member of the committee, declared that the seven-month probe could significantly expand the scope of the Cunningham scandal. While the report was not immediately released publicly, Harman did indicate that the findings centered on Cunningham's repeated pressuring of committee aides to set aside secret funds for his associates. [1]

Oversight of covert operations

In 2005, Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker that President George W. Bush had signed a series of findings and executive orders authorizing the Department of Defense to undertake covert military operations in several Middle Eastern and South Asian countries. Covert actions were typically the province of the Central Intelligence Agency, which has oversight obligations to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. The congressional reporting requirements were passed into law after several assassination and domestic spying scandals in the 1970s. Covert operations undertaken by the military have significantly less clear congressional reporting and oversight requirements. [2]

In November 2004, the New York Times reported that Bush had ordered the creation of an interagency working group to examine the question of whether the CIA's in-house paramilitary unit should be moved to Department of Defense Control. Hersh also reported that in fall 2004 Bush signed an "Execute Order on the Global War on Terrorism" authorizing the military to "find and finish" military targets abroad including al Qaeda. In December 2004, Vince Cannistraro and Philip Giraldi reported in Intelligence Brief that Bush had signed a Presidential finding authorizing the military “to operate unilaterally in a number of countries where there is a perception of a clear and evident terrorist threat... A number of the countries are friendly to the U.S. and are major trading partners. Most have been cooperating in the war on terrorism.” The operations were to be supervised by then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Under-secretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone and Army Lieutenant General William G. "Jerry" Boykin. [3]

In early 2005, Hersh reported that "Pentagon advisers" had told him that the types of activities the military was now authorized to undertake included the recruitment of locals in foreign countries to join terrorist or guerrilla organizations as moles without informing the U.S. Ambassador or CIA station chief in that country. They could also include the formation of local "action teams" by the Special Forces in target countries that could be used to find and eliminate terrorist organizations. [4]

Hersh reported that a "Pentagon adviser" had assured him that some members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees were briefed on the Defense Department's new operations but did not say how extensive the briefings were. A second "Pentagon adviser" told Hersh that “There are reporting requirements... But to execute the finding we don’t have to go back and say, ‘We’re going here and there.’ No nitty-gritty detail and no micromanagement.” [5]

Jeffrey H. Smith, who was general counsel of the CIA in the mid-1990s, said that congressional oversight requirements of covert operations undertaken by the Department of Defense are unclear:

"It's a very, very gray area... Congress believes it voted to include all such covert activities carried out by the armed forces. The military says, 'No the things we're doing are not intelligence actions under the statute but necessary military steps authorized by the President, as Commander-in-Chief to "prepare the battlefield." ' [When I was at the CIA] we were always careful not to use the armed forces in a covert action without a Presidential finding. The Bush Administration has taken a much more aggressive stance... Congress has always worried that the Pentagon is going to get us involved in some military misadventure that nobody knows about.”” [6]

The Yellow Fruit scandal

The Department of Defense previously got involved in covert operations in the early 1980s after the failed April 1980 rescue of the American hostages in Iran. The program was called called Intelligence Support Activity, or ISA. It was initially kept secret from many members of Congress, senior generals and political appointees in the Department of Defense. [7]

The unit was deployed in Nicaragua to support the Contra war against the Sandinista government. Soon, however, financial scandals involving arms deals that resulted in the courtmartialling of several of its senior officers in what was called the "Yellow Fruit scandal" (the name of one of the one of ISA's front operations). The program was then scaled back but kept alive as an undercover unit in the U.S. Army, with its operations hobbled by requirements for clearance and no-go zones. [8]

Previous committee membership

110th Congress (2007-2008)

Members of the
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,
110th Congress
Democrats: Republicans:

109th Congress (2005-2006)

Members of the
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,
109th Congress
Democrats: Republicans:

Articles and Resources



Wikipedia also has an article on House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.

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