Intelligence Sharing

/ February 4, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Department officials can no longer "categorically" deny Government Accountability Office investigators access to foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information, according to a new Pentagon instruction.

"Such information may be furnished to GAO representatives having a legitimate need to know. Therefore, denials of access to such information must be carefully considered and supported legitimately," the Jan. 27 document states.

According to the Secrecy News blog, where the tidbit was first unearthed, there is a history of haggling over the issue.

GAO access to intelligence information has long been a subject of dispute and controversy. By law (31 U.S.C. 716d), the Comptroller General who directs the GAO cannot compel executive branch agencies to disclose intelligence information. The Central Intelligence Agency has generally refused to cooperate with GAO auditors, while defense intelligence agencies have historically been somewhat more forthcoming.

-- Sebastian Sprenger