On Friday, the White House issued an executive order revamping the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB), “a nonpartisan body offering the President objective, expert advice on the conduct of U.S. foreign intelligence.”
Board members cannot be employees of the federal government, but the President is now stacking the board with former loyal Bushies. Yesterday, the White House announced it is appointing former Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend:
The President intends to appoint Fran Townsend, of New York, to be a Member of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board.
In her former role, Townsend functioned as a mouthpiece for Bush’s misguided national security priorities. For example, she was a key player in broadening the administration’s surveillance powers and vocally supported “special methods” of interrogation.
Historically, the PIAB has provided a check on administration’s intelligence gathering. For example, it was the first government body to conclude that the infamous “16-word” statement on Saddam Hussein’s WMD in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union was “questionable.”
Last week’s executive order also guts the Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB), a sub-unit of the PIAB that “advises the President on the legality of foreign intelligence activities.” Bush transferred much of the IOB’s investigative powers to DNI Mike McConnell, a Bush appointee. Under the order, IOB members may include PIAB appointees like Townsend:
The IOB shall consist of not more than five members of the PIAB who are designated by the President from among members of the PIAB to serve on the IOB.
Ultimately, President Bush is ensuring that both boards will be of little effectiveness in scrutinizing the White House’s intelligence activities.
(HT: State Of The Division)