Re "Democrats plan new intelligence oversight," Dec. 15
As a former Senate senior staff member and concerned citizen, I applaud the plan to create a new House panel to oversee the operations and budgets of the 16 separate agencies that now compose the nation's intelligence community. Repeated failures by U.S. intelligence in recent years attest to the growing need for effective oversight. The record shows that few, if any, in the intelligence community or Congress have been held accountable for their lapses. Too often, that time-honored bureaucratic remedy, "reorganization," seems to be the standard response.
I remain hopeful, however, that the new plan will prove more effective than the old way of not doing things. Until individual members of Congress and their staff members obtain appropriate access needed to review intelligence matters, and until they choose to exercise that right, "oversight" will remain a platitude.
Less than a dozen of our 535 federal legislators, for example, read the National Intelligence Estimate on Weapons of Mass Destruction before casting their votes to authorize intervention in Iraq.
New panel or not, the intelligence information system needs to be changed to permit our elected representatives (and their staffs) to exercise responsible oversight and then they must "just do it." If not, it's up to us, the voters, to hold them accountable.
G. WAYNE GLASS
\o7The writer is a professor in the USC School of International Relations.