US intelligence embraces debate in security issues

By Lara Jakes

Associated Press

Published: Monday, May 27 2013 7:03 a.m. MDT

Few have been more skeptical of the decision-making behind the drone strikes than Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who has sat on the Senate Intelligence Committee since 2001. Earlier this year, he threatened to block Senate confirmation of CIA Director John Brennan until the White House gave Congress classified documents outlining its legal justification for targeting American citizens in drone strikes. The documents were turned over within hours of Brennan's confirmation hearing.

Generally, Wyden says, spy assessments have become far more reliable over the last decade, and especially since the flawed Iraq intelligence. But he maintains Congress should be given greater access to classified documents to independently verify intelligence analysis and assessments — and safeguard against being misled.

"Certainly, solid analysis from the intelligence community is one of the most important sources of information that I have," Wyden said in an interview this month. "And if you look back, and the analysis is incorrect or if it's written in a way that portrays guesses at certainties, that can contribute to flawed decision-making.

"That's why I felt so strongly about insisting on actually getting those documents with respect to drones," Wyden said. "I've got to be able to verify it."

Clapper, who has been working on intelligence issues for a half-century, is well aware of how jittery many Americans feel about the spy community. The internal debates, he believes, should bolster their confidence that intelligence officials have thoroughly weighed all aspects of some of the world's most difficult security issues before deciding how high a threat they pose.

"I think it'd be very unhealthy — and I get a lot of pushback from people — if I tried to insist that you will have one uniform view and this is what I think, and that's what goes. That just wouldn't work," he said. "There is the fundamental tenet of truth to power, presenting inconvenient truths at inconvenient times. That's part of our system."

Follow Lara Jakes on Twitter at https://twitter.com/larajakesAP

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