Tue, Mar 19, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan's watchers need watching

By Lee Wen-chung 李文忠

When the Control Yuan announced the impeachment of National Security Bureau officials for negligence after some of their subordinates absconded with government funds, it once again exposed the lack of appropriate legislative supervision over the intelligence organizations.

Intelligence is an important tool in the preservation of the nation's survival and interests, but owing to its secretive and unique modus operandi, if intelligence work is carried out inappropriately, the public's human rights will be affected. Because of this, Taiwan's intelligence organization really should accept supervision from legislative organizations, and reduce illegal activities.

Democratic countries mainly divide their supervision of intelligence agencies into three categories: executive, internal and legislative. Executive supervision is conducted from departments positioned above the intelligence agencies, such as the US president's Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) which operates directly under the president, and the UK's Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), under the Cabinet.

In the UK, committee chairs are filled by senior officials of the Cabinet Office, and are directly responsible to the prime minister. Members include senior-level officials from the foreign affairs, defense, trade and industry, and finance ministries, as well as the heads of the three main intelligence agencies.

Each intelligence organization basically supervises itself. In the US, for example, every intelligence organization designates an internal "supervisor" that works directly under the agency head. These supervisors perform inspections, supervision and auditing, seeking to prevent abuses.

The CIA is unique because it is the only US intelligence agency where the internal supervisor is appointed by the president and approved by the Senate. By law, this internal supervisor must report directly to the president's IOB. In addition, because the numerous intelligence organizations under the US Defense Department, the post of assistant to the secretary of defense for intelligence oversight is set up directly under the secretary.

The UK's Cabinet system uses a permanent undersecretaries committee composed of undersecretaries from each of the different intelligence agencies. The committee operates under the guidance of the JIC, integrating and inspecting the activities of the various intelligence agencies. The UK's intelligence agencies also designate their own supervisors and appraisal committees.

As for the most important supervisory body in the US -- the Congress -- the Select Committee on Intelligence bears the main responsibility for supervising intelligence agencies. Other legislative committees can also supervise intelligence work related to their professional domains.

As for the numerous grey areas of intelligence and counter-intelligence work -- such as the US State Department's numerous "secret operations" -- the foreign and international relations committees of the Congress can de-mand that the department submit a secret operations report.

In the UK, the Intelligence and Security Committee is set up in accordance with the Intelligence Services Act. The committee is formed by members of both the houses of Parliament. Nine of the committee members are appointed by the prime minister. These committees' main functions are to supervise the operations, budgets and administrative matters of the three intelligence departments, the Security Service, Secret Intelligence Service and Government Communications Headquarters.

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