The Senate Intelligence Committee is drafting an "umbrella" charter that would put the nation's intelligence agencies under a powerful new Director for National Intelligence with both budget-making and whistle-blowing authority.
In its first annual report since it was permanently established, the committee said the proposed new charter would set down the authority for each component - most notably the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the counterintelligence division of the FBI - and restrictions aimed at protecting the rights of American citizens.
The CIA would have a separate, subordinate director under the new scheme. At present, the CIA director is also nominal head of the entire intelligence community, but in practice he has had little real authority over the mammoth NSA, a super-secret arm of the Pentagon which specializes in communications intercepts, or the FBI, which is theoretically subservient to the Justice Department.
The turgid, occasionally murky 40-page report voiced confidence that with the committee's secretly developed oversight procedures and the enactment of effective new charters, "We will not see a repetition of the widespread abuses of the past."
Headed by Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), the Senate committee indicated, however, that it still runs into its own "procedural difficulties in obtaining material related to some areas of intelligence activity."
"Examples of this kind of problem," the report said, "are sensitive claudestine collection activities and the activities of foreign intelligence agents in the United States."
The Senate committee has been investigating numerous allegations about the operations here of intelligence agents of Iran, Chile, Taiwan and the Phillipines. It is also attempting to determine whether any U.S. intelligence agencies knew of the South Korean CIA's lobbying operations here.
A committee spokesman said resistance was encountered from the CIA, the NSA and the FBI in response to varying requests for information, but the committee said that in recent weeks, it has "begun to receive" the details it needs. Apparently the committee has smoothly established procedures for keeping abreast of covertaction programs, but runs into opposition each time it attempts to establish oversight over other activities, such as clandestine intelligence-gathering programs.
The Senate panel said it has received close to 100 allegations of improperties by U.S. intelligence agencies over the past year, but it has disclosed only one serious one in any detail, the CIA electronic eavesdropping on Micronesians seeking self-government. A committee official estimated that about 10 per cent of the allegations it investigated were "serious" in nature.
The committee has held 39 meetings over the past year, all but 10 of them in secret. Its subcommittees have held another 33 meetings, all but three of them in secret.
The report listed a number of case studies that have been undertaken on the quality of U.S. intelligence, such as one concerning "Soviet Strategic Weapons Developments" and another on "Oil and the Arab Price Hikes, 1973-74", but none of these has been completed yet. The committee also said it is still mulling the question of whether to make public an overall intelligence spending figure, a step that its predecessor committee, headed by Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho), was on the verge of doing more than a year ago but then left in the hands of the new panel.
In outlining the authority that might be confered on a new Director for National Intelligence, the committee suggested that he ought to have control over the annual budgets for all nation intelligence activities and responsibility for all clandestine information collection and covert action programs.
In addition, the report said, "He naturally would be responsible for reporting violations of law or executive orders to the Attorney General and alerting the Congress of such notifications." The new director might also be required to keep "a full and complete record of intelligence activities and their legal authorities."
"This would help to avoid difficulties in obtaining the agencies, 'secret charters' or in finding the 'paper trail' of questionable decisions," the report said.
Among other restrictions being considered were a possible ban on intelligence agency payments to clergymen, journalists and U.S. citizens now overseas under special grants or programs, the panel said. Use of such people in intelligence activities has created substantial controversy in the past.
Perhaps the liveliest segments of the report were dissenting views by Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan (D-N.Y.), who criticized the report as "a profoundly biased political document" for failing to mention the Soviet Union's Committee for State Security (the KGB) or "the reality of the totalitarian threat" and by Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D.Del.) who said Moynihan "simply misses the point" of what has been wrong with the U.S. intelligence community: "The fact that most officials of the intelligence community do not know what they should and should not be doing."