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Bush executive order weakens intelligence oversight watchdog

[JURIST] A new executive order [text] weakens much of the authority of the Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) [official backgrounder], the independent committee of private citizens which since 1976 has been responsible for reporting illegal US intelligence activities to both the president and the attorney general. The order, signed February 29, removes the IOB's oversight authority over each US intelligence agency's inspector general and general counsel, and also eliminates the requirement that each agency head file a report to the IOB every three months. The order now gives greater deference to intelligence agencies, permitting them to file reports to the IOB only if and when they think necessary. The executive order also narrows the scope of IOB reporting of agency violations, permitting it now only when other officials are not already "adequately" addressing the illegal activity.

The Board, whose members are appointed by the president, was vacant for the first two years of Bush's presidency. Last July, the Washington Post reported that the IOB sent no reports of illegal agency activity to the attorney general during the first 5 and a half years of Bush's presidency, even though the FBI alerted the board to hundreds of legal violations by its agents after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The Boston Globe has more.

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