Obama Strengthens Independence & Power of Intel Advisory Groups, White House Says

President Obama signed an executive order Wednesday that strengthened the independence and the information gathering powers of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB) and its five-member watchdog sub-component, the Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB).

There are three main reforms:

The president wanted to have bipartisan leadership -- there has been criticism in the past that the PIAB is a political job filled with yes-men -- so the chairmanship was expanded, if the president so desires, into two co-chairs. This week, President Obama appointed as co-chairs former Sens. David Boren, D-Okla., and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.

The other two changes are a bit more complicated. The way that the Obama administration explains them is as follows:

President Clinton had added to the executive order creating the PIAB and IOB a requirement for the IOB to forward to the Attorney General information about any intelligence activities that violate federal criminal laws. President George W. Bush removed that requirement from the IOB, putting it in the hands instead of the Director of National Intelligence. This week’s change reinstates the Clinton-era requirement for the IOB to report information about wrongdoing to the Attorney General.

The other change clears up any confusion about whether the intelligence community has to hand over to members of the PIAB any information its members request. It does.

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement that "The Bush Executive Order cast a cloud of uncertainty upon the Board's independence and powers by erasing the Board's mandate to refer unlawful conduct directly to the Attorney General and by failing to arm the Board with explicit authority to obtain all of the information it needs to conduct appropriate oversight. The President's Executive Order is designed to correct those deficiencies."

-- jpt

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