GAO’s Oversight of NSA. Not.


Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, writing at Secrecy News, reports that the Congress has not used the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to perform any oversight of the National Security Agency (NSA), despite maintaining an office there to do just that.

Despite multi-billion dollar acquisition failures at NSA and the Agency’s controversial, possibly illegal surveillance practices . . .Congress has declined to summon all of its oversight resources such as GAO to address such issues.

When asked NSA oversight during a Senate hearing, David Walker, GAO’s comptroller general, verified that the agency has office space at the NSA, but they don’t use it since they are not receiving any request for oversight from Congress. He added that he didn’t want to have people sitting out there twiddling their thumbs.

Sen. Daniel Akaka, chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on government oversight, has introduced the Intellegence Community Audit Act of 2007 (S. 82), that would bolster GAO’s oversight role in auditing the country’s intelligence agencies. Last Friday, Akaka convened a hearing on the subject, reports, and Steven testified that federal spending on intelligence has almost doubled in the last decade, going from $26.6 billion in 1997 to more than $50 billion last year, without any corresponding increase in oversight. Steven also said intelligence agencies have doubled their spending to hire private contractors over roughly the same time period, again with inadequate oversight, what Steven termed, "In effect…a net decrease in intelligence oversight."

GAO has been called the "Congressional Watchdog" and the "Taxpayers’ Best Friend." Huh?