Sixteen House members introduced an omnibus bill yesterday that would put new controls on the FBI, the CIA and other government intelligence agencies and set up broad safeguards against government spying.
The sponsors included two members of the Intelligence Oversight Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee, Reps. Ronald Dellums (D-Calif.) and Robert Carr (D-Mich.), who said that existing controls are completely inadequate.
The 66-page bill, which has the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union, attempts to prohibit government cover-ups of illegal activities in the name of national security, seeks to protect government officials who "blow the whistle" on such undertakings, and calls for appointment of a special prosecutor to deal with violators of the proposed new law.
Other provisions of the legislation, which is expected to be split into separate bills so they can be considered by disparate committees, would:
Abolish so-called "human espionage" in peacetime and convert the CIA into a "foreign information service" that would concentrate on information collected from overt sources or from technical devices such as spy satellites.
Restrict government access to individual tax, bank, credit and telephone records except by court order or statutorily sanctioned subpoenas.
Restrict the FBI to criminal investigations and prohibit "political surveillance" by any government agency that impinges on activities protected by the First Amendment.
Reduce the secrecy sanctioned by so-called "national security" exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act and permit the release of "national defense" information if it "appears to relate to illegal or unconstitutional activities engaged in by any official of the federal government."
At a press conference with several other sponsors of the legislation, Dellums, who also served on the now defunct Intelligence Committee, said that "human epionage" providers very little information, perhaps 5 per cent or less of the intelligence gathered by U.S. agencies "in this technological era of satellites, hearing devices and high resolution cameras." He said the old-fashioned spywork also has "an extraordinarily corrupting influence," and is notably unsuccessful against major powers such as the Soviet Union and China.
Rep. Robert Drinan (D-Mass.) speculated that the section of the bill calling for appointment of a special prosecutor to deal with intelligence community abuses had especially good chances of passage. He also predicted that the proposed reforms of the FBI would get a thorough hearing by the Judiciary subcommittee in charge of FBI oversight.
The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), has told ACLU officials that committee-sponsored legislation to safeguard individual rights and draft new charters for the nation's intelligence agencies should be introduced by the end of the month. In addition, Inouye said a bill dealing with electronic surveillance is "vitally needed."