HPSCI: It’s time to get serious about tunnels

on July 6 | in Oversight

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This year’s Senate and House Intelligence Authorization Acts have several provisions that are proving to be controversial. The Senate version would require social media websites to report potential terrorist activity to federal authorities. The House version would limit the authority of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to access information related to covert action. But also hidden within the House bill is an as yet unnoticed provision that could have grave consequences for the Intelligence Community:

SEC. 305. DESIGNATION OF LEAD INTELLIGENCE OFFICER FOR TUNNELS.

(a) IN GENERAL.—The Director of National Intelligence shall designate an official to manage the collection and analysis of intelligence regarding the tactical use of tunnels by state and nonstate actors.

(b) ANNUAL REPORT.—Not later than the date that is 10 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, cialis canada recipe and biennially thereafter until the date that is 4 years after the date of the enactment of this Act, generic viagra the Director of National Intelligence shall submit to the congressional intelligence committees and the congressional defense committees (as such term is defined in section 101(a)(16) of title 10, United States Code) a report describing— (1) trends in the use of tunnels by foreign state and nonstate actors; and (2) collaboration efforts between the United States and partner countries to address the use of tunnels by adversaries.

That’s right – the IC is finally going to be forced to get serious about tunnels! As we’ve noted on Overt Action previously, the community faces a diverse set of challenges today, including budgetary constraints, an increasingly skeptical public, and the complexity of the threat landscape. Apparently we should have included tunnels on that list of challenges.

I’d love to know the genesis of this provision. It probably went something like this: Freshman congressman in a closed-door meeting of the committee – “You mean to tell me Director Clapper that you have no single intelligence officer dedicated to tunnels?” DNI Clapper – “That’s correct Congressman. We have thus far not included tunnels in the National Intelligence Priorities Framework.” Freshman Congressman – “This is outrageous. How can you ever expect to connect the dots if the dots are moving through tunnels? We’re going to have to do something about this.”

Kidding aside, there are certainly a few legitimate foreign intelligence targets that use tunnels to conduct their activities. But this provision nonetheless seems like a rather strange and even wasteful requirement to levy in an intelligence authorization bill. Congressional overseers and the IC both should have better things to do.

Flickr – Israel Defense Forces – Tunnel Found Near Egyptian Border” by Israel Defense Forces from Israel – Tunnel Found Near Egyptian Border. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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