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Scrutiny
  
Still on the ‘Bush’wagon?
Obama may not fare much better than Bush on intelligence oversight
29/10/2009

Would it be intelligent enough to keep activities of intelligence agencies under wraps? Or is it time to let accountability take priority? Obama is not finding easy answers to these questions as the debate on the Intelligence Oversight Bill gains momentum. If and when the bill is passed, top level intelligence agencies like CIA, NSA or FBI would be accountable to the people. So far, their operations have only been known to the President and his team of advisers. A similar bill was raised earlier during the regime of former President Bush and he vetoed against it; giving former Vice-President Dick Cheney full authority to run anti al-Qaeda operations secretly. And whenever there has been scope of scrutiny; for instance, on the methods of interrogation used for al Qaeda suspects or the illegal use of state surveillance, the process has been stalled on the basis of the argument that information revealed would be detrimental to security interests of the US. The proposal is that US Attorney General Eric Holder and a team of Justice Department lawyers will personally approve any such arguments about state secrets; making it difficult for the government to escape with this ‘alibi’. However, it may not be too easy. Significantly, just hours after the hours after the Justice Department reiterated that it would limit use of state secrets privilege in new cases, the administration was busy invoking the state secrets clause in a five year old case where two American lawyers for a Saudi charity (non-existent today) were subjected to illegal surveillance. Further, seven ex-CIA directors have demanded that Holder’s ruling to investigate into CIA interrogations post 9/11 be reversed. Obama will need to muster a lot more gumption to make this legislation work. Otherwise, Americans may not exactly view his initiative in this regard as a change they need!

By:- Akram Hoque
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