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Originally Published: 3/6/2008


By The Issue Wonk




In 1956 President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the President’s Board of Consultants on Foreign Intelligence Activities. President John F. Kennedy gave the board the name of President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) and “asked it to assess the quality of intelligence gathered leading up to and during the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the Cuban Missile Crisis.” Originally PFIAB was concerned solely with the quality of intelligence efforts. There was no official advisor to the president on the legality of intelligence gathering operations.


President Jimmy Carter abolished the PFIAB because he believed he got good information from the National Security Council. President Ronald Reagan revived the PFIAB, and took the board to 21 members. But in 1985 he dismissed half of the members, saying the size was too unwieldy. President George H.W. Bush, who had been the CIA Director under Ford, didn’t like the PFIAB. He reduced the membership from 15 to 6 members. President Bill Clinton, by Executive Order 12863, reinstituted the larger membership, making it “not more than” 16 members.




According to the White House, “The President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) provides advice to the President concerning the quality and adequacy of intelligence collection, of analysis and estimates, of counterintelligence, and of other intelligence activities.” The PFIAB currently has 16 members “selected from among distinguished citizens outside the government who are qualified on the basis of achieve-ment, experience, independence, and integrity.” [Emphasis added.]


According to Bryce:1


In an ideal world, the PFIAB members would analyze the intelligence they get and give the president their unvarnished opinions about the relative merits of the different agencies and the work they are doing. PFIAB members are granted access to America’s most secret secrets, known as SCI, for Sensitive Compartmented Information. Members of PFIAB have security clearances that are among the highest in the U.S. government. They have access to intelligence that is unavailable to most members of Congress. They are privy to intelligence from the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the military intelligence agencies and others.


Everything that members do as part of PFIAB is done in secrecy. None of the information that they discuss or view is available to the public. They are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. And unlike other public servants who work for the president, there is no public disclosure of the PFIAB members’ financial interests.




Past chairs have include former Senator Warren Rudman, former House Speaker Thomas Foley, and former Defense Secretary Les Aspin.2


David Corn, in 2002, attempted to get a list of President George W. Bush’s appointments to the PFIAB. He was told it was a “secret.” According to many sources, this has never been the case. Corn was finally able to get a list, so here’s the membership as of 2002.


Brent Scowcroft was appointed chair. Scowcroft had been national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush, making him well-qualified. But, according to Corn, there were problems with this appointment. Scowcroft had been a consultant for the oil industry, a board member of Qualcomm, and a past director of Global and Power Pipelines, an Enron subsidiary. Scowcroft also runs his own business, The Scowcroft Group, which sells intelligence and other services to global corporations in the telecom, aerospace, insurance, energy, financial, electronics, and food industries. “As head of PFIAB, Scowcroft has access to secret information that could be valuable to his clients and his own business endeavors.”2


Scowcroft was an unspoken critic of Bush’s incursion into Iraq and left the PFIAB in 2004. I have been unable to ascertain who has chaired PFIAB since that time.


Other members:


Pete Wilson, former governor of California

Cresencio Arcox, AT&T executive and former U.S. ambassador

Jim Barksdale, former head of Netscape

Robert Addison Day, chair of the TWC Group, a money management firm. One of Bush's “Pioneers.”*

Stephen Friedman, past chair of Goldman Sachs

Alfred Lerner, chief executive of MBNA

Ray Lee Hunt, scion of the Texas oil fortune. Hunt also sits on Halliburton’s board of directors. He was appointed in 1998 while Dick Cheney was CEO. He was on the compensation committee that help to determine Cheney’s salary and made the decision to give Cheney a $1.1 million bonus and restricted stock awards worth $1.5 million in addition to his regular salary of $1.18 million.1**

Rita Hauser, prominent lawyer and longtime advocate of Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation

David Jeremiah, a retired admiral

Arnold Kanter, national security official under George H. W. Bush and a founding member of The Scowcroft Group

James Calhoun Langdon, Jr., Texas lawyer and one of Bush’s “Pioneers.”*

Elisabeth Pate-Cornell, head of industrial engineering and engineering management at Sanford University

John Harrison Streicker, real estate magnate

Philip Zelikow, National Security Council staffer under George H. W. Bush. Zelikow later served as chair of the 9/11 Commission


Corn also noted:  “Barksdale raised money for Bush in Silicon Valley. Lerner’s MBNA was the single biggest source of contributions for Bush in 2000 and he and his wife each donated $250,000 to the GOP. Hunt, too, rounded up bucks for Bush. Friedman gave $50,000 to the Republican Party in 2000. Streicher is a Democratic contributor.”2


Later appointees:1 (See also White House)


William DeWitt, Jr., a Bush backer going back to 1984 when his company, Spectrum 7, bailed out the Bush Oil Co. DeWitt played a key role in the syndicate that Bush put together to buy the Texas Rangers and raised more than $300,000 for Bush's presidential campaigns

Donald Evans, former Commerce Secretary and Bush confidant for many years

Arthur Culvahouse, former Reagan White House counsel

Lee Hamilton, former U.S. Representative and later vice-chair of the 9/11 Commission

James O. Ellis, retired admiral

Martin Faga

John L. Morrison

Charles S. Robb

Dennis Bovin

Martin S. Feldstein

Stefanie Osburn, Executive Director, former chief of staff for the deputy director of National Intelligence for Management at the CIA.


Intelligence Oversight Board


More interesting is the Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB), a standing committee. The history on the IOB is confusing. Several sources site it as being created by President Ford after the Watergate debacle. However, President Reagan issued Executive Order 12334 which appears to create the IOB. The IOB is intended to oversee the legality of intelligence gathering activities.


The duties of the IOB are as follows:


(a) Inform the President of intelligence activities that any member of the Board believes are in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, Executive orders, or Presidential directives;


(b) Forward to the Attorney General reports received concerning intelligence activities that the Board believes may be unlawful;


(c) Review the internal guidelines of each agency within the Intelligence Community concerning the lawfulness of intelligence activities;


(d) Review the practices and procedures of the Inspectors General and General Counsel of the Intelligence Community for discovering and reporting intelligence activities that may be unlawful or contrary to Executive order or Presidential directive; and


(e) Conduct such investigations as the Board deems necessary to carry out its functions under this Order. [Emphasis added.]


Reagan’s Order stated that the IOB was to be comprised of three (3) members, one of whom will be appointed from among the members of the PFIAB and who shall be the chair. The other two (2) members were to be appointed by the president “from among trustworthy and distinguished citizens outside the Government who are qualified on the basis of achievement, experience and independence.” Currently all members have been chosen from the PFIAB. They are: Arthur B. Culvahouse, Donald L. Evans, and David E. Jeremiah.




*A “Pioneer” is someone who collected at least $100,000 for George W. Bush’s presidential race.


**From 1982 to 1990 Anne Armstrong, a wealthy Texan, chaired the PFIAB. During this time and for many years thereafter, she also served on Halliburton’s board and was on the board when it decided to hire Dick Cheney as its CEO.2



1 Bryce, Robert. Top-Secret Cronies. Salon.com, 11/17/05.


2  Corn, David. Who’s On PFIAB-A Bush Secret. . . Or Not? The Nation, 8/14/02.


© The Issue Wonk, 2008




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