The law governing the 16 agencies and departmental offices that are called the U.S. Intelligence Community by insiders requires them to keep both the House and Senate intelligence committees "fully and currently informed of all intelligence activities," except so-called covert actions "including any significant anticipated intelligence activity and any significant intelligence failure."
But guidelines from the new Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte say that it is up the directors of each agency to decide what programs or other activities are covered by the requirement.
"Whether a matter is significant, as set forth in these guidelines, is at the discretion of the director" of the agency involved.
"Determining whether a matter is significant," the guidelines continue, "is a matter of judgment based on all the facts and circumstances known to the (agency) and on the nature and extent of congressional knowledge of the matter from prior notification or otherwise."
The guidelines, issued last year by the new intelligence director, are one of a series of policy documents from his office posted on the Web last week by government transparency advocate Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists.