For years, quasi-government agencies have operated under grey areas in oversight and accountability. After a number of reports of embezzlement, financial malpractice, and misuse of funds, state governments have started to keep a closer watch on them.
Fresh on the heels of Iran-Contra, the CIA refused to allow the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to audit the Agency “with respect to funds authorized for the Nicaraguan Resistance,” insisting that since any such funds would break the law, there was nothing for GAO to audit, and therefore GAO’s request was being denied. Similarly, any other hypothetical assistance to the Nicaraguan Resistance would have been subject to Congressional oversight, and on which grounds the Agency would similarly deny the GAO access.
During the ’80s, CIA’s efforts to shut down the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) access to the Agency not only went on unchecked, but reached a new level of success when the Agency convinced Congress to further consolidate Oversight within the intelligence committees. Not only did this nearly cut the GAO out entirely, but it allowed the CIA to spread its exemption to other agencies eager to avoid an audit.
In an April 1975 letter for Central Intelligence Agency Director William Colby, the Agency’s Assistant Legislative Counsel laid out the arguments the Agency intended to make against a bill requiring they allow the Government Accountability Office access to CIA records. In an accompanying cover letter, the Agency lawyer drafting the letter noted they “really slung the B.S.,” and asked for Colby’s help in determining if they had overplayed the CIA’s position a bit.
In 1975, Senator William Proxmire, drawing from a General Accountability Office (GAO) report about their difficulties getting agencies to cooperate, introduced legislation which would effectively force CIA to allow itself to be audited by the GAO. In response, the Central Intelligence Agency began compiling materials to argue against it - an argument which was described by the Agency lawyer drafting it as “B.S.”