Campus News

Forum will focus on intelligence oversight in modern world

Is secrecy the enemy of democracy? Are there circumstances when the Central Intelligence Agency or the U.S. president should have the authority to bypass legal procedures such as wiretapping citizens without a warrant?

These fundamental questions making headlines in today’s news, as well as other critical issues surrounding the structure of an intelligence system and questions of its supervision, will be at the center of discussion March 8 at a forum entitled “Oversight or Overlook? Intelligence in the Modern World.”

Presented by the university’s Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies in association with the Policy Forum of the School of Policy and International Affairs, the program will convene at 3 p.m. in the Chapel. A reception will follow in Demosthenian Hall.

David M. Barrett’s most recent book, The CIA and Congress: The Untold Story from Truman to Kennedy, provides a provocative account of relations ­between American spymasters and Capitol Hill. Barrett joins a panel of UGA intelligence experts moderated by Loch Johnson, a public and international affairs professor who was special assistant to the chairman of the 1975 committee that exposed governmental abuses of domestic spying. Panelists are UGA alumnus Powell Moore, senior congressional and presidential aide and Donald Rumsfeld’s first assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs (2001-04) and Michael Speckhard, the university’s CIA scholar-in-residence.

“It is David Barrett’s research at the Russell Library that sparked interest in having a campus forum for discussing the timely subject of modern intelligence gathering and oversight,” says Sheryl B. Vogt, director of the Russell Library. “Most of us could easily believe the CIA has little oversight, but during the early years, Congress certainly appeared aggressive in monitoring the agency. Considering today’s events in light of that historical context will no doubt engage our panel and audience in a lively conversation.”

Barrett, a professor of political science at Villanova University, used collections in the Russell Library in researching two of his previous books, Lyndon B. Johnson’s Vietnam Papers and Uncertain Warriors: Lyndon Johnson and His Vietnam Advisers.

In addition to his congressional service, Johnson is the author of three books on the activities of the U.S. intelligence agencies.

Most recently, he was a co-author of Who’s Watching the Spies?: Establishing Intelligence Service Accountability, which examines the intelligence systems of nine countries, including the U.S., Norway and South Korea.

“I believe, and the evidence shows that, given recent experiences with terrorism, clearly even the most democratic societies have a legitimate need for secrecy,” Johnson says. “The secrecy has often been abused, however, and strong oversight systems are necessary to protect individual liberties. We certainly saw that in this country in 1975 and the lessons of that era about the importance of checks and balance in the secret world of intelligence should not be forgotten.”