Congress's recommendations on future covert actions

The report of the Iran-contra committees includes 27 recommendations for changes in legislation or procedures involving covert operations. Some of the key recommendations follow. Presidential findings. The report notes that one of the pivotal authorizations by President Reagan for the arms sales to Iran was made orally, was issued after the operation had commenced, and was ambiguous even to the President's top aides. The report recommends that covert action findings:

Be in writing and personally signed by the president.

Be signed before the covert action is commenced, or, in rare emergencies, within 48 hours after the action is approved.

Be required for covert actions by all US agencies and regardless of the source of funds, not just for covert actions by the CIA using appropriated funds.

Specify all government agencies, foreign countries, or private parties that will be involved in a covert action.

Cease to be operative after one year unless the president certifies that the finding is still in the national interest.

Cannot be used to authorize covert actions that are contrary to any US law.

Congressional oversight. The arms sales to Iran were not disclosed to the congressional Intelligence Committees, despite a law requiring ``timely'' notice to Congress of covert operations. The administration has argued that the risk of leaks justified delaying notice to Congress until the covert action was over and that a report at that time would have constituted notice ``in a timely fashion.'' Insisting that such reasoning defeats the purpose of the law, the report recommends that:

Current law be amended to require that Congress be notified prior to the commencement of a covert action or, in rare cases, within 48 hours after the action is approved.

Copies of all signed findings be sent to the congressional Intelligence Committees.

Current law be changed to require notice to Congress of any covert arms shipments where the entire transfer is valued at more than $1 million, rather than limiting such notice to transfers of individual items costing more than $1 million.

National Security Council. Distressed by the central involvement of the NSC staff in the Iran-contra affair, the panels recommend that:

The members and staff of the NSC be barred from engaging in covert actions.

The president should report to Congress periodically on the organization, size, functions, and procedures of the NSC staff.

The national-security adviser should not be an active military officer.

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