The War on Oversight
Government agencies too often attempt to escape oversight, and it’s always a problem. This project collects MuckRock’s efforts to document these instances so we can understand when it’s happening, where, and most importantly how.
For years, accusations of KGB penetration of the Government Accountability Office helped further the Central Intelligence Agency’s ‘s efforts to pit the Congressional committees against GAO. In the early 1980s, an opportunity presented itself that would deepen these divides without any action from CIA - a conspiracy against President Reagan involving a Soviet diplomat with a penchant for ten gallon hats.
Since 1949, for 68 of Central Intelligence Agency’s 70 years, the Agency has waged a war against the Government Accountability Office and what CIA described as its “army of auditors.” Not until 2010 was Congress ready to grant GAO that authority, though the provision was dropped under threat of a veto from President Obama. The end result is a hard line that meant the Agency would almost certainly refuse to cooperate at all with any probe that they felt was oversight related. This interactive timeline offers a blow-by-blow of the last seven decades, explaining how and why things got to where they are today.
As a result of the failure by the Senate Intelligence Committee to restore the GAO’s authority to audit or review the Central Intelligence Agency, by the next year that immunity had spread to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which had assumed some of the Agency’s responsibilities in coordinating the Intelligence Community. Like CIA, the ODNI cited a legally dubious position in a 1988 letter from the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel stating that the GAO had no authority to look at anything relating to “intelligence activities.” Also like CIA, the ODNI used a such a broad definition of intelligence activities so that “by definition” they were categorically exempt.