Friday, March 14, 2008

Bush Weakens Espionage Oversight Board

WASHINGTON, March 14 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President George W. Bush has issued an order that strips the independent Intelligence Oversight Board of much of its authority, the Boston Globe reported Friday.

The board was created 32 years ago by U.S. President Gerald Ford and was made up of private citizens with top-level clearance to ferret out illegal spying activities.

Bush issued an executive order recently, stripping the board of much of its authority.

The White House did not explain, but critics say the order is consistent with a pattern of steps by the Bush administration that have systematically scaled back Watergate-era intelligence reforms.

Ford created the board following a 1975-76 investigation by Congress into domestic spying, assassination operations, and other abuses by intelligence agencies.

The board's investigations and reports have been mostly kept secret.

But the Clinton administration provided a rare window into the panel's capabilities in 1996 by publishing a board report faulting the CIA for not adequately informing Congress about putting known torturers and killers in Guatemala on its payroll.

Bush's new order downsized the board's mandate to be an aggressive watchdog against such problems.

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