[JURIST] US President Barack Obama signed an executive order [text] Wednesday giving the Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) [official website] the authority to report suspected violations of federal law related to intelligence gathering to the US attorney general. The order amends an executive order [text, PDF] signed by former president George W. Bush last February, which allowed the IOB to report suspected violations only to the president, the director of national intelligence, and the agency at which the infraction occurred. White House spokesperson Tommy Vietor said that the order was meant to clarify [NYT report] the IOB's authority and bolster its independence. The order does not restore the IOB's oversight authority over each US intelligence agency's inspector general and general counsel, which was removed [JURIST report] in Bush's executive order. Also on Wednesday, Obama announced [transcript] the appointment of former senators Chuck Hagel (R-NB) and David Boren (D-OK) [professional profiles] to chair the Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB), the IOB's parent body charged with providing an independent source of advice to the president on the efficacy of intelligence operations.
The PIAB consists of up to 16 members [official backgrounder] not currently employed by the federal government, who are given top secret security clearances and authority to request detailed information from the nation's 16 intelligence agencies [DNI backgrounder]. The board was created in 1976 by then-president Gerald Ford after the Church Committee [backgrounder] investigations exposed [report text] domestic intelligence abuses. In July 2007, the Washington Post reported [text] that the IOB sent no reports of illegal agency activity to the attorney general during the first five-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.