The deep state evades over­sight.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK -

As for­mer con­gress­man Alan Grayson put it, over­sight “is a joke.” Congress has nei­ther the staff nor the re­mit to di­rect or mi­cro­man­age the ex­e­cu­tion of na­tional se­cu­rity pol­icy. And ad­min­is­tra­tions with­hold de­tails from Congress, of­ten by omis­sion and be­cause poli­cies re­ally are con­fus­ing, but oc­ca­sion­ally on pur­pose. For a long time, the FBI rou­tinely ha­rassed Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal dis­si­dents; the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency opened tele­grams sent to (and from) U.S. ci­ti­zens abroad; and the CIA ran an en­tire se­cret war in South­east Asia.

But in the 1970s, the Viet­nam War and Water­gate em­bold­ened Congress. After a se­ries of in­ves­ti­ga­tions, known to his­tory by the last names of the sen­a­tors who chaired them — Pike and Church — a more mod­ern over­sight sys­tem was born for the in­tel­li­gence and de­fense worlds. Mil­i­tary pol­icy, de­fense spend­ing, in­tel­li­gence agen­cies and home­land se­cu­rity all have sep­a­rate com­mit­tees be­fore which of­fi­cials must reg­u­larly tes­tify un­der oath and jus­tify their ac­tions. At least some mem­bers of Congress must be no­ti­fied be­fore the start of any CIA covert op­er­a­tion, and the most highly clas­si­fied of all de­fense ac­tiv­i­ties, known as waived Spe­cial Ac­cess Pro­grams, must be orally briefed to bi­par­ti­san con­gres­sional lead­er­ship.

In­creased pub­lic ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion has also made sleuths of ev­ery­one, and the abil­ity of less-pow­er­ful ac­tors in our democ­racy to in­sti­gate larger in­ves­ti­ga­tions of the deep state has be­come a sig­nif­i­cant check. In the long run, the na­tional se­cu­rity ap­pa­ra­tus can­not at­tract the best and bright­est when it does bad things.

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