98. Memorandum From Attorney General Bell to Secretary of Defense Brown and Director of Central Intelligence Turner1


  • Intelligence Oversight Board Reporting Procedures

I have carefully reviewed the letter of July 28, 1979 which you proposed to send to the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs on behalf of the three of us suggesting that the Chairman of the IOB be asked to forward to the Assistant to the President copies of anything that he sends to the President.

I cannot sign this letter and do not believe that this is a wise course of action. I know from my discussions with the Chairman of the IOB that the proposed letter is inaccurate in stating that the suggested procedure would not be objectionable to the Board from a policy viewpoint. Further, I disagree with the conclusion in the letter that the proposed procedure poses no risk to the Board’s independence.

In accordance with these views, I am returning to you unsigned the draft letter of July 28, 1979.

While I dispute the wisdom of the procedure suggested in the draft letter, I share your view that it is important for the Intelligence Oversight Board to exercise great care to report to the President only those matters that are significant enough to deserve his attention and to ensure that these reports are fair and complete. At the same time, I am sure you recognize that an effective oversight system requires the IOB to maintain a healthy degree of independence. I have discussed these views with the Chairman of the IOB and found him to be quite receptive. If you perceive specific problems in the operations of the Board, I would urge you to discuss them with the Board and to seek counsel from my successor, Benjamin Civiletti.

Griffin B. Bell
Attorney General
[Page 428]


Draft Letter From Secretary of Defense Brown, Attorney General Bell, and Director of Central Intelligence Turner to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)2

Dear Zbig:

There is an anomaly in the White House paper flow that we urge be corrected promptly. Reports on various matters from the Intelligence Oversight Board to the President appear to go directly from the Chairman of the Board to the President without a chance for you to examine them even to assure factual accuracy. We believe this is inappropriate in most cases.

We suggest that you request the Chairman to send you information copies of anything he sends forward to the President. This should not be objectionable to the Board from a policy viewpoint. There is no risk that the Board’s independence would be jeopardized because its reports to the President would not be delayed or prevented from reaching the President. Moreover, there would be no automatic relaying of the reports to the agency which is its subject. The reports would merely be open to comment if you chose to submit additional views for the President to consider.


  • Harold Brown
  • Griffin Bell3
  • Stansfield Turner
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 330–82–0204B, 350.09 (Jun–Aug) 1979. No classification marking. Copies were also sent to Civiletti and Farmer.
  2. No classification marking.
  3. Attorney General Bell did not sign the letter.