TRIALS BY FIRE - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

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TRIALS BY FIRE - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

After addressing the nation, President George W. Bush meets with his National Security Council inthe Presidential Emergency Operations Center Sept. 11, 2001. (White House photo by Eric Draper)of covert action. In the 1991 Intelligence Authorization Act, Congress establishedthe following procedures for covert action:• The executive branch must determine through a Presidential findingthat a specific covert action is necessary to support “identifiable foreignpolicy objectives” of the US. A finding must be issued within 48hours after the official policy decision that approves the covert action.• The CIA Director and the heads of all departments, agencies, andentities of the Government involved in a covert action will keep thecongressional intelligence committees—the House Permanent SelectCommittee on Intelligence (HPSCI) and the Senate Select Committeeon Intelligence (SSCI)—fully and currently informed.Covert Action Reporting RequirementsCongress expects the White House-controlled Intelligence Community tobrief all significant covert action findings to the full membership of the intelligenceoversight committees. Furthermore, the National Security Act of 1947requires the President to report a finding to the intelligence committees “assoon as possible after…approval and before initiation” of the covert activities.While this would seem to be a clear-cut demarcation of executive responsibilities,legislation nevertheless allows the White House to occasionally circumventcomplete reporting requirements.Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs | Harvard Kennedy School43

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