Intelligent Suicide

Posted February 29, 2008 at 6:12pm

The Government Accountability Office may be the government’s main watchdog agency, but it rarely investigates a key sector: the intelligence community.

It’s not that the agency doesn’t want to; rather, it gave up trying long ago because it was too difficult to get any information out of secretive agencies like the CIA.

[IMGCAP(1)]On Friday, Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) held a hearing on whether Congress should explicitly assign the GAO the task of overseeing the management and structure of the national intelligence community. He hopes to get the word out about a bill he recently introduced that would give GAO more power to investigate those agencies.

“They are part of our government,” Akaka said. “To have federal agencies not cooperate is unheard of.”

As it stands now, most of the oversight is done by the Senate and House Intelligence committees. The GAO rarely intervenes, only taking up an audit or investigation if Congress explicitly asks. Otherwise, the agency is wasting resources on agencies that won’t cooperate and won’t follow any recommendations, Comptroller General David Walker said.

But Walker and intelligence experts also said Friday that the Intelligence committees do not have the resources to handle all the oversight duties of a highly complex system. The GAO has experts who can help the intelligence community assess how best to manage its work and work force, they argued.

Denying the GAO information only is detrimental to the agencies themselves, Walker said.

“They’re shooting themselves in the foot,” he said after the hearing. “We could help them.”

Ford Honored. A statue of President Gerald Ford is headed to Statuary Hall.

The Joint Committee on the Library, which has jurisdiction over the placement of pieces in Statuary Hall, approved the figure’s assignment on Friday. Michigan leaders already have given the green light to placing a Ford statue in the Capitol (each state is allowed to display two statues of its choice in the National Statuary Hall Collection).

The statue will be designed, created, funded and transported to the Capitol by the Gerald R. Ford Foundation. It will replace a statue of Michigan Sen. Zachariah Chandler, who is considered one of the original organizers of the Republican Party.

Web Site Wars. With House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) still refusing to take down his Web site promoting earmark reform, another Member on Friday removed a video link from his site that endorsed Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for president, which is a violation of House rules.

As of Friday morning, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) had a link on his House site’s “contact me” page directing Web surfers to MillerTV, a video feature on the networking site Facebook. The link took visitors to a clip of Miller endorsing Obama and urging viewers to visit Obama’s campaign Web site.

But that link violated House rules,which state that Member sites cannot “be directly linked or refer to Web sites created or operated by a campaign or any campaign related entity including political parties and campaign committees.”

A Miller spokeswoman called the link “completely inadvertent,” adding that officials quickly removed it after officials brought it to their attention on Friday afternoon.

House Administration Committee spokesman Kyle Anderson said the panel immediately contacts any Member whose Web site is found to have links to political content.

“We find that most such violations are inadvertent and quickly remedied,” Anderson said.

One situation that has not been quickly remedied is the ongoing debate over the fate of earmarkreform.house.gov, the Boehner-run site promoting the GOP’s earmarking efforts.

House Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard asked Boehner to move the Web site to a new domain name after it was found to be in violation of House rules. But Boehner has refused, saying Beard gave him permission to use the domain name in August 2007.

According to one knowledgeable House aide, there should be “some additional activity around the issue” this week, although details as to how the situation will be handled remain up in the air.

Party People. Here’s a sign that the November 2008 opening of the Capitol Visitor Center will actually happen: Architect of the Capitol officials are looking for event planners for the facility.

According to a “sources sought notice” issued last week, the AOC is looking for people “capable of providing professional and creative event planning” along with coordinating and planning special exhibits.

The planner must handle an array of tasks, including creating event themes, unveiling marketing strategies, picking out the decorations, helping organize security and sending out invitations, according to the notice.

Responses are due by March 12.

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