The president should require agency heads to task agency inspectors general to perform regular audits of agency compliance with executive order requirements on classification and declassification. Thousands of executive branch personnel are authorized to create new classified information, but only a dozen or so individuals are authorized to perform independent oversight of such classification actions. Inspectors general, who are already in place at each agency, should be directed to perform periodic audits of classification and declassification activity to ensure that classification is properly applied and limited to the essential minimum.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) should be enlisted to conduct regular intelligence oversight. GAO is among the most effective and skillful instruments of government oversight available. It performs audits and investigations of programs and activities throughout the government, with the exception of the U.S. intelligence community. The intelligence community has traditionally declined to participate in GAO inquiries that “evaluate intelligence activities, programs, capability, and operations,” according to the Director of National Intelligence, because to do so, the DNI says, could compromise intelligence sources and methods. That is a pretext, not a legitimate argument. The GAO has 1,000 employees with Top Secret clearances, including several dozen with Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) clearances for access to intelligence information. These employees oversee highly classified programs outside of the intelligence community. There has never been a compromise of classified information originating at GAO.
The president should actively cooperate with congressional oversight and recognize that oversight is a healthy component of American government. The executive branch should be responsive to requests for document production and make administration officials available to testify under oath before Congress. The president should order each agency to fully cooperate with any investigation or inquiry into the accountability of government activities related to national security and homeland security actions. This includes criminal investigation or prosecution, congressional investigation or inquiry, appointed commission inquiry, or executive branch investigation or audit. Agencies should be instructed to provide relevant records, making personnel available to testify under oath, and declassifying records and information so that an accounting may be provided to the public. Such investigations could cover domestic surveillance, rendition, detention, or interrogation. Further, the president should minimize the assertion of executive or other privileges and invoke them only when essential.
- From the 21st Century RTK Agenda