Information acquired by intelligence gathering sources is a fundamental component in the formulation of the foreign policy of the United States. A major objective of that policy is to provide for national security, which in the 70's requires preparation against economic reprisal and international terrorism as well as the threat of military action. Achieving this objective requires effective and responsible, covert intelligence operations to secure the necessary information.
The disclosure of past abuses in intelligence gathering activities carried on by previous administrations and the recent unauthorized disclosures of sensitive intelligence information have led to calls for changes in the operation of foreign intelligence gathering agencies. President Ford has taken unprecedented affirmative action in response to this need to strengthen -- as well as to limit -- agency activity. In February 1976, the President issued an Executive Order which detailed a comprehensive plan:
Implementation of the provisions of the Order will:
The President has stated that his plan has two basic objectives:
"First to ensure that we have the best possible information on which to base our policies toward other nations;--And second, to ensure that our foreign intelligence agencies do not infringe on the rights of American citizens."
President Ford strongly believes that while controls may be necessary to prevent abuse, an effective program for intelligence gathering is vital to the national interest. In his State of Union message the President said:
"The crippling of our foreign intelligence services increases the danger of American involvement in direct armed conflict. Our adversaries are encourged [encouraged] to attempt new adventures while our own ability to monitor events and to influence events short of military action is undermined."
To implement an effective intelligence program which respects individual rights, President Ford's Executive Order:
Prevention of abuse demands that independent oversight be an integral part of a national intelligence scheme. The President established the Intelligence Oversight Board and enlarged the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board to meet the needs of effective oversight. The President has charged the Oversight Board:
". . . to act as an independent auditor on what takes place within the intelligence community. You are not to be influenced by the White House on the one hand, and you are not to be influenced by the intelligence community on the other, and your responsibility is an independent area of responsibility."
The Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, established by President Eisenhower and recently enlarged by President Ford, functions as a non-partisan body to advise the President on the effectiveness of foreign intelligence efforts.
One of the most important features of these oversight bodies is that they are composed of private citizens from outside the Government. Such public participation broadens the perspective needed for responsible intelligence gathering.
President Ford recognizes the need for Congressional support to implement certain procedures for intelligence gathering. He has proposed legislation to define the circumstances under which the use of electronic surveillance to obtain foreign intelligence information will be appropriate.
The President also respects the appropriateness of Congressional oversight. He has stated:
"It is clearly the business of the Congress to organize itself to deal with these matters . . . I believe good Congressional oversight is essential so that the Congress and the American people whom you represent can be assured that the foreign intelligence agencies are adhering to the law in all of their activities."
The problem of leaks of sensitive intelligence information from Congressional sources to the public has threatened the cooperation established between the Executive and the Congress to operate an effective intelligence program. The President has made two recommendations to Congress to restore confidence and mutual trust between these two branches of the government:
No other administration in recent times has responsibly acknowledged the shortcomings of intelligence operations and has equally as responsibly met the challenge to set specific guidelines to restore public confidence in this much-needed activity. The program outlined by President Ford is an historic and purposeful effort to make the government and its vital intelligence activities responsible to the needs of the American people.
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