Independent Christian Voice

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It depends on what your definition of "the same intelligence" is

The next time you hear the White House or the GOP leadership claim that Congress saw the same intelligence as the president did, we now know why they are lying. A memo sent to Sen. Dianne Feinstein by Alfred Cumming, specialist in Intelligence and National Security for the Congressional Research Service. Here are excerpts from that memo:
By virtue of his constitutional role as commander-and-in-chief and head of the executive branch, the President has access to all national intelligence collected, analyzed and produced by the Intelligence Community. The President's position also affords him the authority - which, at certain times, has been aggressively asserted - to restrict the flow of intelligence information to Congress and its two intelligence committees, which are charged with providing legislative oversight of the Intelligence Community. As a result, the President, and a small number of presidentially-designated Cabinet-level officials, including the Vice President - in contrast to Members of Congress - have access to a far greater overall volume of intelligence and to more sensitive intelligence information, including information regarding intelligence sources and methods. They, unlike Members of Congress, also have the authority to more extensively task the Intelligence Community, and its extensive cadre of analysts, for follow-up information. As a result, the President and his most senior advisors arguably are better positioned to assess the quality of the Community's intelligence more accurately than is Congress. In addition to their greater access to intelligence, the President and his senior advisors also are better equipped than is Congress to assess intelligence information by virtue of the primacy of their roles in formulating U.S. foreign policy. Their foreign policy responsibilities often require active, sustained, and often personal interaction, with senior officials of many of the same countries targeted for intelligence collection by the Intelligence Community. Thus the President and his senior advisors are uniquely positioned to glean additional information and impressions - information that, like certain sensitive intelligence information, is generally unavailable to Congress - that can provide them with an important additional perspective with which to judge the quality of intelligence. [...] The President is able to control dissemination of intelligence information to Congress because the Intelligence Community is part of the executive branch. It was created by law and executive order principally to serve that branch of government in the execution of its responsibilities. Thus, as the head of the executive branch, the President generally is acknowledged to be "the owner" of national intelligence. [...]

The executive branch generally does not routinely share with Congress four general types of intelligence information:

  • the identities of intelligence sources;
  • the "methods" employed by the Intelligence Community in collecting and analyzing intelligence;
  • "raw" intelligence, which can be unevaluated or "lightly" evaluated intelligence, which in the case of human intelligence sometimes is provided by a single source, but which also could consist of intelligence derived from multiple sources when signals and imagery collection methods are employed; and,
  • certain written intelligence products tailored to the specific needs of the President and other high-level executive branch policymakers. Included in the last category is the President's Daily Brief (PDB), a written intelligence product which is briefed daily to the President, and which consists of six to eight relatively short articles or briefs covering a broad array of topics. The PDB emphasizes current intelligence and is viewed as highly sensitive, in part, because it can contain intelligence source and operational information. Its dissemination is thus limited to the President and a small number of presidentially-designated senior administration policymakers.
That last excerpt is important. I certainly can understand and don't necessarily have any problems with why Congress cannot see all the same information as the president and his staff, especially since most politicians — particularly those in Congress — have serious problems with loose lips as they try to impress others with their power and access. Information about sources and operational information is very sensitive and not something you want floating around everywhere — I have no quarrel with that. However, if the source and operational information is relevant to the credibility of the intelligence itself, it's a vital piece in the puzzle — something the president knows that Congress wouldn't necessarily have access to knowing. And it's for that reason that I have profound doubts that Congress saw the "same intelligence" that Bush, Cheney and his war advisors saw. So, they need to put that attack against Democrats and war opponents to rest; it's a disingenuous position.

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