32. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) and Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB)

My staff has reviewed in some depth the activities of your Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) and the Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) with a view toward providing recommendations on their future disposition.2


The PFIAB has existed in various forms for over 21 years and has served a useful oversight role during much of that period. Its scope, [Page 122] however, has been largely limited to appraisal of intelligence collection and analytical production. The Board has not gotten into covert action operations. The Board’s most conspicuous failure was in apparently not perceiving the abuses that were revealed by Congressional investigations.3 Its success in recent years has been in helping to focus attention on intelligence analytical production issues and to a limited extent influencing organizational decisions.

PFIAB may well be a classic case of an institution which has outlived much of its original usefulness. New interagency committees and oversight mechanisms within both the Executive and Legislative branches have been created that perform better many of the same oversight functions as PFIAB and, in some important areas, such as oversight of covert action and investigation of possible abuses, go beyond PFIAB’s traditional role.

On the other hand, PFIAB does still serve some useful functions. It provides, for instance, a small measure of assurance to the public concerning foreign intelligence activities. It has also in the past served as a vehicle for the President to involve trusted friends outside the government in oversight of the Intelligence Community and put them in a position to advise in an educated way. Finally, appointments to the Board to a limited extent have gone to prominent people deserving special Presidential recognition, at least in part for domestic political reasons.

In short, I believe that only a marginal case can be made for continuing PFIAB.

Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB)

The IOB was created by E.O. 11905 to meet a pressing requirement to establish a system whereby the President could be assurred that foreign intelligence activities which raised serious questions of legality or propriety would be brought to his attention. The Board’s performance to date indicates that this is possible.

The present Board has some problems which should be resolved soon so that it will function properly in the future. The most serious problem is the Chairman, retired Ambassador Robert E. Murphy. Put most candidly, Murphy, although a man of integrity, is no longer [Page 123] up to the responsibilities of the Chairman’s job, either mentally or physically, and should be replaced. Very careful consideration should also be given to the question of retaining the other two members—Leo Cherne and Stephen Ailes. While more able and active than Murphy, Cherne and Ailes have demonstrated an inability to distinguish in their reporting to the President between activities that raise genuinely serious legal issues or questions of propriety and minor infractions that, in some instances, are inadvertent.

The quality of the IOB’s staff support should also be strengthened. At least two good staff members are required.


1. That PFIAB be abolished, in the context of reconstituting and strengthening the IOB (a separate implementing memorandum would be provided).


2. That the NSC Staff attempt to identify for your approval a proposed new IOB membership.


  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Box 94, Subject Chron, Intelligence, 3/77. Secret. Outside the System. Brzezinski did not initial the memorandum.
  2. See Document 31.
  3. A reference to the Church and Pike Committees. The Church Committee investigated abuses in the intelligence community in the wake of Watergate, published 14 reports containing their findings, and called for reform. The Pike Committee, established in 1975, became the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in July 1977. It was named for its last chairman, Representative Otis Pike. Like the Church Committee, the Pike Committee also investigated abuses in the intelligence community. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXXVIII, Part 2, Organization and Management of Foreign Policy; Public Diplomacy, 1973–1976.
  4. Carter did not indicate his preference with respect to either of the recommendations. On May 4, Carter abolished the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board by issuing Executive Order 11984. See Public Papers: Carter, 1977, Book I, pp. 801–802.