99. Memorandum From the Counsel of the Intelligence Oversight Board (Kujovich) to the Chairman of the Intelligence Oversight Board (Farmer)1


  • IOB Briefings on Intelligence Activities

I have relayed your request that the DCI or his Deputy brief the full Board on November 16. My point of contact in the CIA General Counsel’s office will convey the request to the DCI. Before I write a follow-up letter, I think that you should review the background of the briefings issue.

At its December 1977 meeting,2 the Board decided to arrange for briefings for the IOB, through the Counsel in the first instance, on all covert actions and sensitive collection operations that had received Presidential or SCC approval. You raised the matter with Admiral Turner and he suggested that it be cleared with Dr. Brzezinski, as Chairman of the SCC.

In order to obtain the suggested SCC clearance, Counsel Burt Wides engaged in a preliminary discussion with Sam Hoskinson, the relevant NSC staffer. Wides informed Hoskinson that “the President had agreed with the Board when they met this summer that the Board should be kept aware of such operations.”

Wides also discussed the proposed briefings with David Aaron.

Aaron agreed that the Board and Counsel should receive covert action briefings, but expressed reservations about sensitive collection briefings. Aaron also suggested that the IOB not have access to written project proposals and decision memoranda.

At the January 16, 1978 meeting3 the Board decided not to proceed with the briefings request until it had met with the President. On February 7, you sent a memorandum to the President setting out the issues the Board wished to discuss with him at a scheduled meeting.4 The memorandum included the following:

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Also, in order for the IOB to provide effective assistance, it needs to be fully aware of ongoing intelligence operations. In this connection, it was agreed at our June 8 meeting5 with you that the IOB would be kept apprised of current operations so that it would have sufficient background against which to evaluate and judge particular activities that have been called into question. The IOB has obtained the necessary clearances and orientation briefings on sensitive collection techniques, but to maximize security in view of an anticipated change in personnel, the IOB deferred comprehensive briefings until its new Staff Counsel was hired. This has now been accomplished, and the IOB is ready to receive regular briefings on current covert action and sensitive collection operations. The NSC has indicated, however, that it would like to have your explicit confirmation before the DCI is authorized to brief the IOB on sensitive collection matters.

We desire clarification on this point because we believe that such briefings are necessary for the IOB to provide you with informed judgment on the matters it reviews.

At the end of the second paragraph, the President indicated his agreement by writing “OK.”

The meeting with the President took place on February 10.6 Burt Wides’ memorandum for the record of that meeting shows that the President, Vice President, Bob Lipshutz, David Aaron, the Board and the Board’s Counsel attended. The memorandum contains the following information about the proposed briefings:

Dave Aaron suggested that the Board receive briefings from the DCI, “like Admiral Turner’s briefing of the Congressional Committee,” so that the Board understands the structure and the techniques of the Community and the nature of our programs. Dave Aaron suggested reservation, however, about the Board getting into the identity of agents in extremely sensitive operations. The President indicated that was his view, and that if the Board felt it needed more information than the initial briefings provided, we could review the arrangements. Dave Aaron also questioned the IOB’s seeing the proposal paper and decision memorandum.

. . . . Dave Aaron said that in the context of a particular inquiry, more specific questions about agents might be appropriate.

. . . . Mr. Farmer made clear that in the first instance the briefings would be provided to the IOB counsel for relay to the Board members and there was no objection.

It seems clear from your memorandum to the President and from the meeting that the President authorized briefings for the Board, and [Page 431] for the Counsel in the first instance, on both sensitive collection and covert actions. The only qualification was that the Board would not be given specific identities on sensitive collection unless such identities were required for a specific investigation being undertaken by the Board. This conclusion is so stated in a Wides memorandum to the Board at the March meeting:7

At our meeting with the President, he confirmed the IOB should receive background briefings on current intelligence operations. They can be divided into three categories: covert action, sensitive intelligence collection and counterespionage. The understanding was that the Board would be fully briefed on covert action. As to sensitive collection on foreign intelligence, we were to be briefed on specific kinds of operations and judgments made regarding the risk-benefit considerations, but those briefings would not, for the time being, actually identify or permit identification, of the sensitive agent in each operation. It is not fully clear what kinds of briefings we will be able to get on counterintelligence, but they would presumably follow the pattern for sensitive collection.

Subsequent to the meeting with the President, you contacted Admiral Turner and arranged for Wides to receive the first briefings. Over the next couple of months Wides received briefings on specific covert actions and much less specific briefings on sensitive collection operations. These briefings were given by CIA staff. (The question of counterintelligence briefings was apparently never pursued.)

On April 28, 1978, you sent a letter to Admiral Turner requesting that either he or Frank Carlucci brief the Board on sensitive collection operations at the Board’s May meeting.8 You stated in your letter that the Board would arrange for a covert action briefing in the near future.

It appears that Turner and his staff gave a sensitive collection briefing at the May 11 meeting.9 On May 25, you wrote Admiral Turner thanking him for “the briefings you provided on sensitive collection matters.”10 You also requested that he arrange for a briefing (at the Board’s June meeting) on covert actions and the procedures for SCC approval of covert actions.

Despite David Aaron’s agreement with the proposed briefing on covert actions and the President’s approval of such a briefing, new problems arose. The difficulty seems to have been with your request [Page 432] that the briefing include the procedures for approving covert actions. The CIA DDO advised Wides that he should again clear the briefing request with the NSC. In June, Sam Hoskinson informed Wides that Dr. Brzezinski believed that the IOB should not be looking into the approval procedures unless there was a particular allegation of illegality or impropriety about the way the NSC did its work. The issue was not resolved between Wides and Hoskinson in the June discussion.

After June of 1978, I can find no further record of follow-up on the covert action briefing request. As you may recall, the Board immersed itself in the Shadrin case11 and the charters legislation of that time. Apparently, the covert action briefing request was lost in the shuffle.

There was, however, a revival of the sensitive collection briefing issue. On August 15, the Board met with the President to discuss Board access to information,12 including sensitive collection operations and Attorney General opinions. We have no written record of that meeting. On August 17, you sent a memorandum to the President13 responding to his request:

for a written summary of the principal categories of information and the degree of access to sensitive data which the Board considers essential in order to perform effectively the functions you have assigned to it.

The summary covered sensitive collection (but not covert action) and indicated that the Board required regular detailed briefings on individual operations identified by nationality and functional category but not by name. The President responded on the memorandum as follows:

too specific. Each quarter Zbig will go over report with Chairman of IOB.

Your memorandum also indicated that the Board required information on the process by which projects are initiated. Although the President did not make any comment on the memorandum concerning this matter, at the August 15 meeting he suggested that the Board draft sensitive collection approval procedures. It therefore appears that the President agreed that the Board should have access to information on the procedures by which intelligence activities are approved by the SCC, SCC Chairman, and the President.

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To summarize what has been approved by the President:

June 1977: The President orally agreed that the Board should be kept informed of ongoing intelligence operations.

February 1978: President agreed in writing that Board should receive briefings on covert action and sensitive collection operations.

President confirmed this decision at a meeting with the qualification that individual sensitive collection sources should not be revealed to the Board unless necessary for a specific Board investigation.

August 1978: President clarified in writing his instructions on sensitive collection briefings. He established a procedure for the Board Chairman to receive quarterly briefings from Dr. Brzezinski. The briefings were to be not so specific as to reveal the nationality and position of specific sources.

The President has not made any further pronouncements on the briefing issue.

At the end of 1978, you wrote Dr. Brzezinski 14 requesting that he give the Board the first quarterly briefing. You renewed this request in a letter of January 9, 1979 and Dr. Brzezinski and the DCI met with the members of the Board on January 25.15 At that meeting (which did not include staff), the procedures for approving sensitive collection operations were discussed, but there was no discussion of the actual operations.

On March 5, you again wrote Dr. Brzezinski noting that the substantive briefing had not been given and requesting that it be conducted at the Board’s March meeting.16 Subsequently Dr. Brzezinski suggested (through Sam Hoskinson that the briefings be given by Admiral Turner and his DDO.)17 At my request Hoskinson contacted the DDO and arranged for the Board to receive the same briefing on sensitive collection that is given at the SCC annual review. I told Hoskinson that the Board would receive this briefing and decide for itself whether it was an adequate substitute for the quarterly Brzezinski briefings that has been directed by the President.

Scheduling difficulties and the controversy over the Presidential standards on sensitive collection prevented the Board from actually scheduling a date for the briefing. The matter was not raised again until October.18 At that time I asked Dan Silver to schedule a briefing on sensitive collection and covert action for you and me. Subsequent [Page 434] discussions led to the DCI’s statement that he had provided the briefings ordered by the President but that he was willing to brief the Board once more. The DCI stipulated that the briefing be given to the full Board with no staff present. I relayed to him your message that the briefing should take place at the Board’s meeting on November 16.

It seems clear that the President’s decisions on the IOB briefings have not been followed with great care. On the one hand, the CIA and NSC staff have engaged in repeated delays and sought additional clarifications after the matter had been decided by the President. On the other hand, the Board has not exerted consistent pressure to have the President’s decisions carried out and has at times requested briefings (on sensitive collection) that were inconsistent with those decisions.

I recommend that you choose one of the following two options:

(1) Write Admiral Turner a letter briefly setting out the President’s decisions and requesting that he comply with those decisions by

(a) Briefing the Board and Counsel on covert action programs at the November 16 meeting.

(b) Arranging for staff briefings for the Counsel on procedures for developing and approving covert actions.

(c) Arranging for a briefing of the IOB Chairman on sensitive collection operations.

(2) Call Admiral Turner on the secure line to arrange for the above-described briefings. If arrangements cannot be made, include the matter in a memorandum to the President on the powers and authorities of the IOB.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, President’s Intelligence Oversight Board, Box 2, Meeting 11/16/79. Secret.
  2. No minutes of the meeting were found. The agenda for the meeting is in the Carter Library, President’s Intelligence Oversight Board, Box 1, Meeting 12/13/77.
  3. No minutes of the meeting were found. The agenda for the meeting is in the Carter Library, President’s Intelligence Oversight Board, Box 1, Meeting 1/16/78.
  4. The memorandum is in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 29, Intelligence Oversight Board, 1/78–12/80.
  5. June 8, 1977. No minutes of the meeting were found, but see Document 38.
  6. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting was held on February 9, 1978, not February 10. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary) While no minutes of the meeting were found, the briefing memoranda for the meeting are in the National Security Council, Carter Intelligence File, Intelligence Oversight Board, 3 Jun 1977–25 Jan 1979.
  7. Wides’ minutes of the March 16, 1978, IOB meeting are in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, President’s Intelligence Oversight Board, Box 1, Meeting 3/16/78.
  8. Not found.
  9. Minutes of the meeting are in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, President’s Intelligence Oversight Board, Box 1, Meeting 5/11/78.
  10. Not found.
  11. A reference to Nicholas George Shadrin, a Soviet defector and double agent, who disappeared after his December 20, 1975, meeting with the KGB in Vienna.
  12. No minutes of the meeting were found.
  13. See Document 88.
  14. Not found.
  15. Neither the letter nor minutes of the meeting was found.
  16. Not found.
  17. Hoskinson’s memorandum of March 16 is in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Box 98, Intelligence (IOB & NFIB Issues) 1978–1980.
  18. Not further identified.