Intelligence Oversight Steps Back from Public Accountability | Secrecy News

The move by Congress to renew the FISA Amendments Act for five more years without amendments came as a bitter disappointment to civil libertarians who believe that the Act emphasizes government surveillance authority at the expense of constitutional protections.  Amendments that were offered to provide more public information about the impacts of government surveillance on the privacy of American communications were rejected by the Senate on December 27 and 28.

Beyond the specifics of the surveillance law, the congressional action appears to reflect a reorientation of intelligence oversight away from public accountability.  The congressional intelligence committees once presented themselves as champions of disclosure. They no longer do so.

The first annual report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by the late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, stated in 1977 that “While most of the work of the Committee is, of necessity, conducted in secrecy, we believe that even secret activities must be as accountable to the public as possible.”

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