Washington, DC – Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) today joined Reps. Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Lamar Smith (R-TX) in introducing legislation to increase independent oversight over the National Security Agency (NSA). The Cooper-Smith-Himes NSA Internal Watchdog Act creates a Presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed Inspector General (IG) for the agency, placing a watchdog inside the NSA who will be accountable to Congress and to the American people.
“Only when our vigilant intelligence community is paired with equally vigilant civilian oversight can the government protect both our national security and our collective civil liberties,” said Himes. “As a member of the Intelligence Committee, I take my oversight responsibilities very seriously, and am pleased to introduce this bill to bring independent oversight to the NSA after last year’s troubling revelations.”
The bipartisan legislation brings enhanced oversight to the NSA by providing the new IG with the authority to:
- Ensure all NSA programs and activities comply with U.S. law and the Constitution;
- Recommend new NSA policies to protect Americans’ civil rights and civil liberties;
- Undertake, immediately after Senate confirmation, a comprehensive review of the programs involved in the Snowden leaks, including the NSA’s compliance or non-compliance with FISA court orders;
- Exercise subpoena power to require contractors and former NSA employees to give testimony in IG investigations;
- Prevent personal snooping or any other misuses of NSA programs by rogue employees and contractors, such as investigating ex-spouses;
- Recommend improvements to whistleblower reporting, security clearance and background check procedures; and
- Challenge, through Congress, any attempted prohibition of an IG audit or investigation due to alleged national security grounds.