The importance of maintaining trust in the Intelligence Community
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Despite Congress’ role in overseeing the Intelligence Community (IC), most staffers and, indeed, even some members don’t know much about it. That’s why last week we held the first Intelligence Community Day on Capitol Hill to give congressional staffers a chance to learn more about the mission, structure and requirements of the agencies and people who work tirelessly to keep our nation safe.

It’s sometimes difficult, even for many of those working on the Hill, to grasp the depth and breadth of what the Intelligence Community does, given that so much of it must be shrouded in secrecy to protect our national security. It’s not nefarious – it’s necessary.

That’s why the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s (HPSCI) Subcommittee on Intelligence Modernization and Readiness organized this unclassified event to respond to other members’ desire to increase awareness of what our 17 intelligence agencies do and how they do it. The day also focused on expanding the agencies’ recruitment efforts from coast to coast, so that we can achieve more diversity in the IC. We invited members, their staff, and even their interns to participate in a full day of programming.

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On one panel we discussed how diversity and inclusion is key to the missions and disciplines of our intelligence agencies, and the ins and outs of the security clearance process. On another panel, we had personnel from the agencies discuss their own careers and experiences. We held question-and-answer sessions, and many agencies handed out information that members and staffers could take back to their D.C. and district offices.

It’s important to get the truth out about our Intelligence Community. The Intelligence Community is critical to national security and HPSCI will continue to support it.

Partisanship has become an obstacle to clear communications between the Intelligence Community, the White House, and Congress, and it’s a detriment to our national security. We must arrest the momentum of this dangerous turn, before it’s too late.

If intelligence agencies feel hesitant to brief Congress on security threats and ongoing investigations for fear that politicians will go after them on Twitter and cable news, we won’t get the full and accurate information we need in order to fulfill our constitutional oversight and legislative duties.

Here's why that matters:

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If trust is undercut in our intelligence agencies to the extent that we can’t recruit foreign sources and convince our allies to share sensitive information with us, we walk increasingly alone and blind in the world.

And if intelligence agencies ever were to start politicizing their work – as has happened in the past with the Iraq War – our view of the threats against us could become occluded and skewed to the point that we’re all less safe.

The fact is, our Intelligence Community comprises thousands of highly trained, deeply experienced men and women who gather, analyze and present detailed information to give the White House and Congress the clearest possible picture of the dangers we face and how best to counter them.

The men and women who work in the Intelligence Community painstakingly investigate and research every detail, determined not to make a mistake that could lead to disastrous consequences. These patriots do this not out of political motivation but out of patriotism, making the protection of our nation paramount above all other concerns.

Swalwell is chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s Subcommittee on Intelligence Modernization and Readiness.