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United States Foreign Intelligence Activities Statement on Executive Order 12036.

January 24, 1978

I have issued today an Executive order concerning the organization and control of United States foreign intelligence activities. It is the product of the most extensive and highest level review ever conducted through the National Security Council system of our Nation's foreign intelligence activities and of an unprecedented dialog with the congressional oversight committees.

The new order, which builds on the experience under President Ford's Executive Order 11905, is intended to provide a foundation for the drafting of statutory charters, and I intend to work closely with congressional leaders to enact such legislation. Until then, however, the new order will:

—ensure that foreign intelligence and counterintelligence activities are conducted in full compliance with the laws of the United States and are consistent with broader national security policies;

—establish effective oversight of the direction, management, and conduct of the foreign intelligence activities of the Federal Government;

—clarify the authority and responsibilities of the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) and the departments and agencies that have foreign intelligence and counterintelligence responsibilities.

The most important features of the new Executive order are as follows:

1. The National Security Council and its two standing committees—the Special Coordination Committee (SCC) and the Policy Review Committee (PRC)-will, short of the President, provide the highest level review of and guidance for the policies and practices of the Intelligence Community.

—The PRC, when acting on intelligence matters, will be chaired by the DCI and is charged with defining and establishing priorities for consumer requirements for intelligence, making sure these are reflected in budget decisions, and evaluation of analytical products. This ensures that the needs of the most important users of intelligence will guide the entire intelligence process.

—The SCC, chaired by the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, will review and make recommendations to the President on the most sensitive intelligence operations and, as appropriate, on collection activities. This committee will also, for the first time, assume responsibility for developing policy for and coordination of all counterintelligence activities.

2. The authorities and responsibilities of all departments, agencies, and senior officials engaged in foreign intelligence and counterintelligence activities are being made public. Those implementing directives which must remain classified for security reasons will be made available to the appropriate congressional oversight committees. The new order implements my earlier decision to centralize under the DCI the most important national intelligence management functions—collection requirements, budget control, and analysis—while operational and support activities are left unchanged and decentralized.

The specific operational responsibilities of each of the elements of the Intelligence Community, as well as their most important community relationships, are spelled out. Two important organizational mechanisms are established to facilitate these functions:

—The National Intelligence Tasking Center, operating in peacetime under the control of the DCI or under the Secretary of Defense when the President so directs, will be responsible for coordinating and tasking national foreign intelligence collection programs.

—The National Foreign Intelligence Board, which includes the members of the Intelligence Community, is an advisory body to the DCI on all national intelligence activities and the budget.

3. Our intelligence agencies have a critical role to play in collecting and analyzing information important to our national security interests and, on occasion, acting in direct support of major foreign policy objectives. It is equally important, however, that the methods employed by these agencies meet constitutional standards protecting the privacy and civil liberties of U.S. persons and are in full compliance with the law.

To accomplish this objective a major section of the Executive order is devoted entirely to setting forth detailed restrictions on intelligence collection, covert activities in support of foreign policy objectives, experimentation, contracting, assistance to law enforcement authorities, personnel assigned to other agencies, indirect participation in prohibited activities, dissemination and storage of information, and a prohibition on assassinations. The FBI's intelligence activities no longer have a blanket exception to these restrictions.

At the heart of the restriction process is a greatly enhanced role for the Attorney General, as the Nation's top legal officer, to establish and approve procedures to regulate the conduct of the most sensitive intelligence activities. These detailed procedures, which will be made available to the congressional oversight committees, will ensure compliance with the law, protect constitutional rights and privacy, and ensure that any intelligence activity within the United States or directed against Americans will employ the least intrusive means possible and that the use, dissemination, and storage of such information is limited to that necessary to achieve lawful governmental purposes.

4. As an added protection against abuses and to help ensure effective performance, the intelligence oversight process is strengthened.

—The Intelligence Oversight Board is retained, and its responsibilities for review of foreign intelligence activities that may be illegal or improper is extended to the counterintelligence area, and it is given new authority to conduct investigations.

—The DCI and senior officers of the Intelligence Community are instructed to report to the congressional intelligence committees in a complete and prompt manner.

I believe that this Executive order represents an important step forward in assuring the American people that their intelligence agencies will be working effectively for them and not infringing on their legal rights. The next step will be to establish these authorities and restrictions in legislation binding on this and future administrations.

Jimmy Carter, United States Foreign Intelligence Activities Statement on Executive Order 12036. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/248023

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