[Congressional Record Volume 161, Number 173 (Tuesday, December 1, 2015)]
[Page S8237]


  Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, this afternoon the House of Representatives 
passed a new version of the Intelligence authorization bill for fiscal 
year 2016. I am concerned that section 305 of this bill would undermine 
independent oversight of U.S. intelligence agencies, and if this 
language remains in the bill, I will oppose any request to pass it by 
unanimous consent.
  Section 305 would limit the authority of the watchdog body known as 
the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. In my judgment, 
curtailing the authority of an independent oversight body like this 
board would be a clearly unwise decision. Most Americans whom I talk to 
want intelligence agencies to work to protect them from foreign 
threats, and they also want those agencies to be subject to strong, 
independent oversight, and this provision would undermine some of that 
  Section 305 states that the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board shall 
not have the authority to investigate any covert action program. This 
is problematic for two reasons. First, while this board's oversight 
activities to date have not focused on covert action, it is reasonably 
easy to envision a covert action program that could have a significant 
impact on Americans' privacy and civil liberties--for example, if it 
included a significant surveillance component.
  An even bigger concern is that the CIA, in particular, could attempt 
to take advantage of this language and could refuse to cooperate with 
investigations of its surveillance activities by arguing that those 
activities were somehow connected to a covert action program. I 
recognize that this may not be the intent of this provision, but in my 
15 years on the Intelligence Committee, I have repeatedly seen senior 
CIA officials go to striking lengths to resist external oversight of 
their activities. In my judgment, Congress should be making it harder, 
not easier, for intelligence officials to stymie independent oversight.
  For these reasons, it is my intention to object to any unanimous 
consent request to pass this bill in its current form. I look forward 
to working with my colleagues to modify or remove this provision.