National Security

Intelligence chief says Congress will get some in-person election security briefings

Director of National Intelligence (DNI) John Ratcliffe on Wednesday said that his office will provide in-person election briefings to some members of Congress while emphasizing his position that the intelligence community (IC) will primarily provide congressional updates in the form of written finished intelligence products.

Ratcliffe in a statement argued that his position has not changed from last month and that the intelligence community is moving to largely use written intelligence products when updating Congress.

“In order to protect sources and methods, the IC will not provide all-member briefings, but we will work to provide appropriate updates primarily through written finished intelligence products,” Ratcliffe said.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) underscored that House members on his panel would continue to receive in-person briefings following Ratcliffe’s announcement, noting it came after “extensive public criticism.”

“This morning, after extensive public criticism, the Office of Director of National Intelligence [ODNI] committed to providing the cancelled in-person briefing to both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. We are now working to confirm a date and time with ODNI,” Schiff said in a statement.

Schiff emphasized, however, that “these briefings for the intelligence committees must not obviate the need to keep all Members and the American people appropriately and accurately informed about the active threats to the November election.”

Ratcliffe faced fierce backlash after he announced in an Aug. 28 letter to congressional leaders that the intelligence community was primarily shifting to written intelligence products as updates, arguing that it would help protect sources and methods as well as prevent leaks.

“The ODNI will primarily meet its obligation to keep Congress fully and currently informed leading into the Presidential election through written finished intelligence products,” he said at the time.

Democrats alleged that the move demonstrated a politicized effort by the Trump administration to withhold election-related information from Congress and the general public at a crucial time, with the 2020 presidential election just weeks away.

For their part, the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee have said that Ratcliffe has pledged since last month to continue holding in-person briefings with their panel about election security threats.

“Last month, Director Ratcliffe reaffirmed that the Senate Intelligence Committee will continue receiving briefings, including in-person, on all oversight topics – including election matters. As we have in the past, the Committee will continue to expect timely and complete information from our intelligence agencies,” the senators said in a joint statement,” Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Mark Warner (Va.), the top Republican and Democrat on the panel, said in a joint statement.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) earlier this month called on the intelligence chief to not only resume in-person briefings with congressional leadership and intelligence panels but also reinstate a series of briefings for all House members, which she said was previously on the books for later this month.

Schiff and Pelosi in a joint statement late last month also threatened that they will “consider the full range of tools available to the House to compel compliance” if the ODNI did not resume briefings, claiming it was a “shameful” attempt by the Trump administration to “withhold election-related information from Congress and the American people at the precise moment that greater transparency and accountability is required.”

Ratcliffe at the time defended the changes and emphasized that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence intended to continue supporting Congress with its oversight efforts. 

Tags Adam Schiff Election Security Intelligence agencies John Ratcliffe Marco Rubio Mark Warner Nancy Pelosi United States Intelligence Community

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