President Obama threatened to veto the Intelligence Authorization Act Wednesday, asserting that Congress was unconstitutionally pursuing information about executive branch deliberations.
It was the third veto threat the president had issued since being elected last November. The first, made before he was sworn in, was to those lawmakers who wanted to block release of the second $350 billion in TARP funds to bail out financial institutions.
Currently, the White House is required to report on certain covert actions to the "Gang of Eight" – the Speaker of the House, the House Minority Leader, the Senate Democratic and Republican Leaders, and the top Democrat and top Republican in both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
The legislation being debated would amend the National Security Act of 1947 in ways, the Obama administration asserted, "that would raise significant executive privilege concerns" by requiring the disclosure to the Gang of Eight "internal Executive branch legal advice and deliberations. Administrations of both political parties have long recognized the importance of protecting the confidentiality of the Executive Branch's legal advice and deliberations."
The new legislative language woukd run "afoul of tradition by restricting an important established means by which the President protects the most sensitive intelligence activities that are carried out in the Nation's vital national security interests," said the statement, issued by the Office of Management and Budget. "If the final bill presented to the President contains this provision, the President's senior advisors would recommend a veto."