White House threatens veto over intel disclosure

The White House said Thursday that if the intelligence authorization bill contains language broadening who the president must inform on covert activities, President Obama would be advised to veto the bill.

Currently, the White House is required by law to inform the "Gang of Eight," the leadership of both Houses and intelligence committees, of covert actions deemed too sensitive to disclose to full committees or legislative bodies.

Officials at the Office of Management and Budget, which distributed the statement of administration policy, also raised concerns about language in the bill that would require "the disclosure of internal executive branch legal advice and deliberations" on covert actions. OMB argues that provision would run afoul of the Constitution.

"Administrations of both political parties have long recognized the importance of protecting the confidentiality of the executive Branch's legal advice and deliberations," the statement said.

In defending the current "Gang of Eight" set-up, OMB noted that "there is a long tradition spanning decades of comity between the branches regarding intelligence matters, and the administration has emphasized the importance of providing timely and complete congressional notification, and using 'Gang of Eight' limitations only to meet extraordinary circumstances affecting the vital interests of the United States."

The language in the bill "undermines this fundamental compact between the Congress and the president," OMB said, calling the current agreement "an arrangement that for decades has balanced congressional oversight responsibilities with the President’s responsibility to protect sensitive national security information."

The statement noted other areas of concern the administration has, which is not unusual in such statements, but warned that these two provisions would result in a recommended veto from the president's advisers. The OMB statement expresses optimism that administration officials will be able to reach an agreement to avoid the veto.

This is the second such threat since Obama took office. Administration and Pentagon officials have also recommended a veto of the defense authorization bill over some proposed defense spending.