Opening Statement ofThank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for inviting me today. I was director of central intelligence for two years early in the Clinton administration. I also, however, in an earlier incarnation, was general counsel of the Senate Armed Services Committee for three years. So I have seen this issue from both Capitol Hill and from the executive branch, and the views obviously that I express today are only those of a private citizen and lawyer who got out the rule book and looked at it and tried to decide what he thought. And I thank you for inviting me.
R. James Woolsey
Hearing before the
Subcommittee on Government Efficiency, Financial Management
and Intergovernmental Relations
House Committee on Government Reform
July 18, 2001
This current issue apparently arose from the question of how this committee could investigate and assess and conduct oversight in connection with the cyber threat to our government computers. And I would say, first of all, that I can think of no overall issue that is more substantively important to the government right now than this. And it is something that is of absolute vital importance. It's an area that I have been working on for some time as a private lawyer. I think such issues as whether firewalls for example can effectively protect computers is of extraordinary importance. I don't believe that they are very effective. And I think that this committee's assessment of the best way for government computers and government network to be protected would be extremely important.
This procedural question of exactly how and under what circumstances what information should be provided to committees of the Congress other than the House and Senate select committees -- permanent select committee and select committee, and the two appropriations committees -- is also an important and rather difficult one.
First of all, let me say when I was director of central intelligence I certainly did not neglect the Congress -- and I don't know any director really who can or should. Congress was in session 185 days in calendar 1993, my first year as director, and I had 195 appointments on the Hill that year -- 10 more than the days Congress was in session. So on the average I was up here more than once a day. At one point for example I sat beside one of my analysts for 29 hours before a number of different committees, because his judgment about Haiti had been called into question, and we answered questions from a large number of individual congressmen, mainly senators, on precisely what type of judgments we made about President Aristide and why.
Any director of central intelligence should spend a good deal of time on the Hill, and he owes not just his two oversight committees and two appropriations committees, but the Congress as a whole, I think, what information he can provide and what help he can provide from the intelligence community.
Now, it's my understanding that a few weeks ago Larry Gershwin, an extraordinarily able national intelligence officer, testified on the cyber threat trends and U.S. network security before I believe it was the Joint Economic Committee. Now, this is of course the principal way in which the CIA provides information to the Congress. It provides intelligence product. And it is an issue, it seems to me, what the words of the House Rules mean with respect to what other information is provided to the congressional committees. Rule 10, and in it clause 11, does say, as the chairman noted at the beginning, that nothing in this clause, clause 11, restricts other committees such as this one from reviewing intelligence activities or intelligence products. But I think one has to note that this right is circumscribed, at least as I read the rule, by a provision in clause 3, not clause 11, which limits exclusively to the House Permanent Select Committee the right to oversee sources and methods.
Now, the way I read those two clauses is that the right, the exclusive right to oversee sources and methods essentially trumps the right of other committees to review intelligence activities or products. So in my mind this whole issue comes down to the question of what is a method of the CIA. In clause 3 it is a method of an entity, the CIA, that is of issue.
Now, some of my colleagues this morning have read this limitation, this word "method," in a quite limited way. Mr. Eland, in his prepared testimony, on pages 8 and 9, says that the CIA's method of protecting its own computers should be regarded no differently by the Congress than its assessment of the foreign threat. And Colonel Smith limits methods to collection methods; that is, whether one is taking photographs or reading lips, for example.
I don't read "methods of the CIA" that narrowly. I must say it seems to me that the method by which the CIA protects its computers from intrusion is a method of the CIA. Now, I fully agree it is up to the House to decide how to interpret its own rules. But I understand the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has a different view than this committee with respect to the breadth, or lack thereof, of the meaning of the word "method."
Now, let me say why I believe briefing on the foreign threat, as Mr. Gershwin did before the Joint Economic Committee, rather than reviewing the CIA's method of maintaining its own computer security is an understandable way for the Congress to operate. If one takes the members of the House Permanent Select Committee and the Senate Select Committee, and of the two appropriations subcommittees for defense, which cover intelligence, one has 72 members of the Congress and 80 staff members. That's 152 people on the Hill who today are charged with intelligence oversight. Those 72 members constitute 13 percent of the entire membership of the Congress. If one adds this committee's and its parallel committee in the other body, Senate Government Affairs members and staff, one adds 58 members, and 193 staff members, to the total that would be engaged in overseeing the CIA. That's now a total of 403 people on Capitol Hill, and would constitute 24 percent of the members of the House and Senate.
There are at least two other committees that have an understandable interest in overseeing some aspect of what the CIA does. House International Relations and Senate Foreign Relations and House and Senate Armed Services. If one adds the 149 members of those committees, and the 219 staff members, one gets an added 368 individuals who would be involved in overseeing the CIA. That would be a total of some 760, 770 individuals on Capitol Hill. And if you deduct the members who are on more than one of those committees, the way my numbers came out, is that you would end up with 49 and a half percent of the members of Congress -- one half of the members of Congress involved in overseeing the CIA. If the Government Reform, Government Affairs, International Relations, Armed Services, as well as the intelligence committees and appropriations committees were involved.
Now, there may be some way -- there may be some structure whereby a change in the process could be worked out, and whereby, as former Chairman Hamilton said, a reform, a systematic reform of the whole process should be undertaken. I don't write off that possibility. But I must say that if one goes at this piecemeal and looks to just each individual committee or subcommittee in Government Reform, Government Affairs, International Relations, Foreign Relations, Armed Services, that may have some understandable interest, and if one interprets the word "method" quite narrowly, so that pretty much anything that the CIA does, other than a collection source or a collection method, is subject to oversight from the other committees of the Congress, you are on a track to having half of the members of the Congress and some 760 people on Capitol Hill in toto engaged in CIA oversight. I do not think that would be wise.
So I would identify myself with Chairman Hamilton's closing words, that I believe the current system works reasonably well, and that it should only be reformed if it is reformed in some systematic and thorough and overall way rather than piecemeal. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members.