National Security Chairmen Push for Transparency Through Restored Access to Intelligence, Overdue Reports, and Briefings
WASHINGTON—The chairmen of three national-security committees in the House of Representatives have called on President Trump to stop withholding critical information from Congress regarding the Administration’s ongoing negotiations with North Korea. In a letter to the President, Chairmen Adam Smith (D-WA) of the Committee on Armed Services, Eliot L. Engel (D-NY) of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Adam B. Schiff (D-CA) of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence underscored that the Administration has failed to brief Congress on the negotiations since the June 2018 Singapore summit, has cut off Congress’s access to intelligence regarding North Korea’s nuclear and conventional weapons, and has ignored law requiring a report to Congress on North Korea’s nuclear program. The lawmakers also raised the growing concern that the President and his top intelligence officials appear at odds when it comes to the progress being made on this matter.
They wrote, “We are perplexed and troubled by the growing disconnect between the Intelligence Community’s assessment and your administration’s statements about Kim Jong Un’s actions, commitments, and intentions. Furthermore, our ability to conduct oversight of U.S. policy toward North Korea on behalf of the American people has been inappropriately curtailed by your administration’s unwillingness to share information with Congress.”
Full text of the letter follows and can be found here.
Dear Mr. President:
As you prepare to participate in a second summit with Kim Jong Un, we reiterate our support for a diplomatic agreement that achieves the complete and fully verified dismantlement of the North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Should Chairman Kim choose to take this historic step, it would represent the beginning of a new era for millions of North Koreans who have paid an unthinkable price for the Kim family’s relentless pursuit of these weapons.
There are ample reasons to be skeptical that Chairman Kim is committed to a nuclear-free North Korea. On January 29, 2019 Director of National Intelligence Coats testified before the Senate that “we currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD [weapons of mass destruction] capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capability because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.” In addition, DNI Coats noted that the U.S. Intelligence Community sees evidence of “activity that is inconsistent with full denuclearization.” On February 12, 2019 Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM), Admiral Phil Davidson, stated “USINDOPACOM’s assessment on North Korean denuclearization is consistent with the Intelligence Community position. That is, we think it is unlikely that North Korea will give up all of its nuclear weapons or production capabilities but seeks to negotiate partial denuclearization in exchange for U.S. and international concessions.” These assessments are alarming for what they indicate about Kim Jong Un’s intentions, and they are also inconsistent with your own statements, including your declaration that North Korea no longer poses a nuclear threat to the United States.
We are perplexed and troubled by the growing disconnect between the Intelligence Community’s assessment and your administration’s statements about Kim Jong Un’s actions, commitments, and intentions. Furthermore, our ability to conduct oversight of U.S. policy toward North Korea on behalf of the American people has been inappropriately curtailed by your administration’s unwillingness to share information with Congress.
It is unacceptable that the administration is planning for a second meeting with Chairman Kim before Congress has been briefed by Secretary Pompeo on the June 2018 Singapore Summit. There is no legitimate reason for having failed to provide regular, senior-level briefings to the relevant committees of jurisdiction on a matter of such significance to our national security. We therefore request Secretary Pompeo brief all House Members on the outcomes of the first and second U.S.-North Korea summit within seven days of the second summit’s conclusion.
We are deeply concerned about the lack of transparency to Congress on intelligence matters related to North Korea. On November 29, 2018, we wrote a letter registering our strong objections to the Congressional Notifications from the Office of the Director for National Intelligence dated September 26, 2018, and October 12, 2018. In our letter – to which we have yet to receive a response -- we asked that access to information regarding North Korea’s nuclear and conventional weapons programs be restored for Members and appropriately cleared staff, as had been the case previously. On the eve of the second summit, we once again insist that you lift the access restrictions, which severely hamper Congress’s ability to evaluate the threat posed by North Korea.
Furthermore, the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19 NDAA) required the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Energy, to provide a report to Congress by October 2018 on North Korea’s nuclear program to establish a baseline of progress for negotiations. However, as of February 2019 the Congress has still not received the report. This is a necessary element in fulfilling our constitutional responsibilities and we request your administration expedite its completion and provide it to Congress without delay.
Most importantly, we urge you and your administration to be candid with the American people about North Korea. The constituents whom we represent would very likely welcome another presidential summit with Chairman Kim if it is accompanied a concerted diplomatic process that advances our security interests and those of our treaty allies -- and if it is bolstered by a realistic public assessment of the realities that we face in achieving our strategic objectives. A summit that amounts to little more than spectacle will further erode the public confidence and the credibility of the United States, an outcome that we all wish to avoid.
ELIOT L. ENGEL
House Foreign Affairs Committee
House Armed Services Committee
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
The Honorable Daniel Coats
Director of National Intelligence
The Honorable Michael Pompeo
Secretary of State
The Honorable Patrick Shanahan
Acting Secretary of Defense
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