May 14, 2019

Wyden Secures Key Provisions in 2018, 2019 and 2020 Intelligence Authorization Acts

Washington, D.C. — Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, secured 15 key provisions in the Intelligence Authorization Acts for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 fiscal years. The bill passed the Intelligence Committee this afternoon.

“This bill is an important step forward in supporting Intelligence Community whistleblowers, protecting our communications and pushing for transparency and accountability for the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi. These provisions and others from the Fiscal Year 2018 and 2019 also advanced today by the committee bills make our country safer from cyber attacks, help those who report waste fraud and abuse in the Intelligence Community and advance the country’s efforts against the threats from Russia and Saudi Arabia.”

The Fiscal Year 2020 bill includes six new Wyden provisions:

  1. Requiring reporting on the national security implications of the adoption of foreign 5G technology. The provision also requires the DNI to report on possible mitigation efforts, including U.S. efforts to promote the use of strong encryption and open-source technology.
  2. Requiring reporting on cybersecurity and surveillance threats to Congress. The provision addresses a key counterintelligence concern by obtaining information on cyber attacks and espionage against U.S. Senators.
  3. Requiring an unclassified report identifying those who carried out, participated in, ordered or were otherwise complicit in or responsible for the death of Jamal Khashoggi.
  4. Codifying an appeals process for IC whistleblowers who have been reprised against. This provision is necessary to protect whistleblowers and ensure that waste, fraud and abuse are reported.
  5. Requiring harmonization of whistleblower processes and procedures. Currently, whistleblowers face a confusing set of disparate procedures across the IC. The amendment will assist whistleblowers by harmonizing those procedures with an aim to maximizing transparency and whistleblower protections.
  6. Improving oversight of Inspector Generals’ treatment of whistleblowers. This provision allows the Intelligence Community Inspector General to track whistleblower complaints and ensure that policies are in place that assure that investigations are conducted and whistleblowers are protected from reprisals.
  7. Assisting whistleblowers with access to cleared attorneys. This provision requires a report and recommendations so that whistleblowers with classified concerns can be represented.

By passing the Fiscal Year 2018 and 2019 Intelligence Authorization Acts, the Committee has again moved forward eight other key Wyden provisions.

  1. Requiring a report on the threat to the United States from Russian money laundering. The provision directs the intelligence agencies to work with the Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence to assess the scope and threat of Russian money laundering to the United States.
  2. Requiring Congressional notification before the establishment of any U.S.-Russia cybersecurity unit, including a report on what intelligence will be shared with the Russians, any counterintelligence concerns and how those concerns would be mitigated.
  3. Requiring a report from the Intelligence Community on whether cybersecurity vulnerabilities in the U.S. cell network, including known vulnerabilities to SS7, are resulting in foreign government surveillance of Americans. 
  4. Prohibiting Intelligence Community officials who are nominated for Senate-confirmed positions from making declassification decisions about themselves. The decisions would be made by the Director of National Intelligence.
  5. Removing the cap on the number of state election officials with security clearances, to better prepare for future threats to election systems.
  6. Establishing new cybersecurity protections for Intelligence Community officials’ personal devices.
  7. Requiring a study on encrypting the Intelligence Community’s unclassified communications.
  8. Requiring a report on protecting the confidentiality of whistleblowers’ communications during ongoing security clearance evaluations.

Although Wyden voted in favor of the combined bills, he continues to object to a provision from the Fiscal Year 2018 bill that could set a troubling constitutional precedent. The provision states that, “WikiLeaks and the senior leadership of WikiLeaks resemble a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors and should be treated as such a service by the United States.”

Wyden also has concerns about a provision in the Fiscal Year 2020 bill that extends the Intelligence Identities Protection Act so that it applies indefinitely, including to individuals who have been in the United States for decades and have become senior management or have retired. Wyden, who in 2010 authored legislation to increase the penalties for outing covert agents, is concerned that the provision is unnecessary and could be used as another means to avoid accountability.