James Clapper Continues to Express Willingness to Allow GAO to Review Intelligence

I have been pretty critical of Obama’s appointment of James Clapper to be Director of National Intelligence. And while I still have my concerns about Clapper’s close ties to the Intelligence Industrial Complex, I am heartened by Steven Aftergood’s report that Clapper continues to express a willingness to allow GAO to review intelligence functions.

DNI James R. Clapper expressed a considerably narrower view of what should be off-limits to GAO [than then National Security Advisor James Jones did in a letter sent in May] in public remarks (pdf) earlier this month:  “I am more concerned or sensitive about GAO getting into what I would consider sort of the core essence of intelligence – that is, evaluating sources and methods, critiquing national intelligence estimates, doing this sort of thing, which I think strikes at the very essence of what the intelligence committees were established to do.”Even so, he suggested that individual GAO staff members could also pursue such highly sensitive matters if this was formally done under direction of the intelligence committees:

“Now, [if] they want to have the GAO assist, detail GAO staff to – if they have the subject matter experts – to the committees. I think that’s fine as long as it’s done under the auspices of the committees when you’re getting at the core essence of what intelligence is and does,” Gen. Clapper said.

Well see when DNI submits its guidance on GAO oversight to Congress next May. But I applaud, at least thus far, Clapper’s sustained willingness to allow Congress to rely on GAO’s skills as it tries to conduct oversight of the intelligence community.

Update: Typo in headline fixed.

Obama’s Intelligence Leaders: For GAO Oversight Before They Were Against It

Yesterday, we talked about how Rahm Emanuel opposed indefinite detention before he started working for it with Lindsey Graham.

Today, Steven Aftergood shows that Obama’s two intelligence heads, Leon Panetta and Dennis Blair, supported GAO oversight of intelligence activities before–presumably–they supported yesterday’s veto threat of GAO oversight.

As a Congressman in 1987, Leon Panetta actually introduced a measure to give GAO oversight authority over the CIA.

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and others have repeatedly argued that the GAO could usefully supplement the intelligence oversight process without detracting anything.  “It is Congress’s responsibility to ensure that the IC carries out its critical functions effectively and consistent with congressional authorization. For too long, GAO’s expertise and ability to engage in constructive oversight of the IC have been underutilized,” Sen. Akaka said last year.

In 2008, Sen. Akaka chaired a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee hearing (at which I testified [pdf]) on the feasibility and utility of GAO intelligence oversight.  “Congress must redouble its efforts–that is what we are trying to do–to ensure that U.S. intelligence activities are conducted efficiently, effectively, and with due respect for the civil rights and civil liberties of Americans, and I will work to see that it does,” Sen. Akaka said then.

Amazingly, an earlier version of the proposal for an expanded GAO role in intelligence oversight was introduced in 1987 by then-Rep. Leon Panetta, who is now the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

According to Rep. Panetta’s proposed “CIA Accountability Act of 1987″ (pdf) (H.R. 3603 in the 100th Congress), “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Comptroller General [who directs the GAO] shall audit the financial transactions and shall evaluate the programs and activities of the Central Intelligence Agency” either at his own initiative or at the request of the congressional intelligence committees.

And during his confirmation hearings, Blair was open to the possibility of GAO oversight as well.

At the January 22, 2009 confirmation hearing (pdf) of Adm. Dennis C. Blair to be Director of National Intelligence, Adm. Blair also acknowledged a role for GAO in intelligence oversight.

Sen. Ron Wyden asked him: “If the GAO is conducting a study at the direction of one of the intelligence committees using properly cleared staff, will you give them the access they need to do their work?”

Adm. Blair replied: “Senator, I’m aware that the direction of GAO studies and the terms of them are generally subject to talk between the two branches of government for a variety of reasons, and subject to having those discussions, ultimately I believe the GAO has a job to do and I will help them do that job.”

But, along with Obama’s opposition to investigating the Amerithrax investigation, he is now threatening to veto legislation that advocates just this kind of oversight.

Biotech Industry Needs 42 Representatives to Try to Refute Jane Hamsher

On October 29, Jane wrote a scathing post about what Anna Eshoo’s provision to give biosimilars a route to approval would do, focusing on the 12 years–and probably more–of monopoly it would grant.

The following day–October 30–Eshoo responded.

On November 2, Jane ripped apart some of Eshoo’s details. She reminded Eshoo that no lesser legislative whiz than Henry Waxman has made the same argument Jane was making. She pointed out that taxpayers have already paid for many of these drugs.

Meanwhile, a bunch of earnest medical students started pressuring law-makers directly.

And then, the NYT tells us, the biotech industry started recruiting Representatives to publicly state their support for the biologics measure.

Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies.E-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that the lobbyists drafted one statement for Democrats and another for Republicans.


The e-mail messages and their attached documents indicate that the statements were based on information supplied by Genentech employees to one of its lobbyists, Matthew L. Berzok, a lawyer at Ryan, MacKinnon, Vasapoli & Berzok who is identified as the “author” of the documents. The statements were disseminated by lobbyists at a big law firm, Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal.

In an e-mail message to fellow lobbyists on Nov. 5, two days before the House vote, Todd M. Weiss, senior managing director of Sonnenschein, said, “We are trying to secure as many House R’s and D’s to offer this/these statements for the record as humanly possible.”

He told the lobbyists to “conduct aggressive outreach to your contacts on the Hill to see if their bosses would offer the attached statements (or an edited version) for the record.”

That big dollar lobbying got 42 Representatives–42!!!–to try to refute the arguments that Jane was making.

Our Jane has them running scared, I guess. I wonder how much those 42 Congressional parrots cost Genentech (which is located in Anna Eshoo’s district)?

While I’m grateful the NYT has called out these 42 Representatives for being industry parrots, there are a number of questions the article raises. Such as, who are the 42 Representatives? The article mentions:


  • K. Michael Conaway
  • Lynn Jenkins
  • Blaine Luetkemeyer
  • Lee Terry
  • Joe Wilson


  • Robert Brady
  • Yvette Clarke
  • Phil Hare
  • Bill Pascrell Jr.
  • Donald Payne

That’s just 10 people; the article stated that “more than a dozen” lawmakers used Genentech’s talking points almost verbatim and reports Genentech bragging of getting 42 Representatives to use its talking points. (Note two people missing from this list: Eshoo and Barton, the measure’s co-sponsors.) So who are the others? And who might the other 30 that Genentech boasted of?

Also, it’d be really nice to show the emails, so Americans can see how little it takes to buy a member of Congress.

Finally, it’d be nice if they showed us either the talking points or the speeches made by the members of Congress to save us the time it’ll now take to dig that out of the Congressional record. I wonder, for example, how much of Anna Eshoo’s response to Jane on October 30 came directly from her Genentech script writers?