Obama signs bills to boost oversight of spy operations
WASHINGTON — President Obama signed a pair of intelligence bills into law yesterday to improve oversight of sensitive spy operations and reduce the amount of threat information that is classified and kept from state and local authorities.
Top intelligence officials in the Bush administration had been faulted for not fully informing Congress about highly classified programs, such as a secret plan to target terrorist leaders.
CIA Director Leon Panetta abolished that program after it was revealed last year.
At present, eight key congressional leaders — the four House and Senate leaders and the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees — get regular intelligence briefings from the administration.
An earlier version of the bill would have opened those briefings to all committee members, spreading such information to as many as 40 lawmakers.
Obama threatened to veto it.
As a compromise, the new law calls for intelligence committee members to receive a “general description’’ of briefings and lets the White House decide what to tell committee members.
In cases where the president limits congressional access, the full intelligence committees must be granted broader access to the information within six months or else be given a statement justifying the limited access.
The second bill Obama signed seeks to reduce the amount of threat information that is classified so state and local authorities can access the information they need to disrupt and prevent terrorist activity.