We urgently call for the formation of the bicameral commission on intelligence oversight

For the past four months, since the composition of the Chambers in Congress changed, the commission tasked with overseeing intelligence agencies and activities has been inactive. Alongside members of the Iniciativa Ciudadana de Control del Sistema de Inteligencia (ICCSI) [Civil Initiative for Intelligence System Oversight], we urge parliamentary authorities, deputies, and senators to rectify this situation.

The ICCSI calls on the authorities of the National Congress and legislators to immediately establish the only oversight body mandated by law for the intelligence system in Argentina: the Bicameral Commission for Oversight of Intelligence Agencies and Activities, as stipulated by Law 25,520 currently in force in Argentina. On April 15, we submitted a letter to the presidents of both Chambers, highlighting the urgency of completing its formation and requesting that they take the necessary steps to do so. The recent ruling by the Federal Criminal Court of Appeals, confirming the convictions of intelligence authorities and agents for diverting and obstructing the investigation into the 1994 AMIA bombing, further underscores the importance of this oversight. The Bicameral Commission is one of the strategic commissions that has yet to be fully constituted following the renewal of the legislative bodies four months ago.

For many years, ICCSI has been warning about the imperative need for a comprehensive reform of Argentina’s intelligence system. Several administrations have weighed this possibility, but none have made the necessary changes to democratize and rigorously oversee not only the operations of intelligence services but also—particularly—the management of two pivotal components of the system: secrecy and reserved funds.

It is worth noting that the Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI) has been under intervention since the Alberto Fernández administration. This exceptional circumstance was extended for two years by the government of Javier Milei through Decree 22 of December 2023. Lawyer Silvestre Sivori was appointed head of the AFI. At that time, we voiced concerns about another extension of the intervention, especially considering the circumstances: the directives outlined in the decree highlight the lack of strategic political will and a cohesive state policy regarding national intelligence. Given this context, the importance of parliamentary oversight in this matter becomes even more critical.

The current intervention is mandated to develop a plan for the reformulation, readjustment, and action of the agency, in particular, and the intelligence system, in general. It is important to remember that the Intelligence System includes not only the AFI but also the Criminal Intelligence Directorate (under the Ministry of Security) and the Military Intelligence Directorate (under the Ministry of Defense). All three have different tasks and roles that must be clearly defined and separated. However, multiple media reports in recent days have highlighted debates within the national executive branch regarding the structure of the intelligence system and the desire of the AFI intervenor and other officials to centralize the operations of these areas under their authority.

Resuming the debate on democratic control of intelligence services is imperative. Historically, these services have been utilized for dubious purposes and have not adequately served the nation’s true interests. Institutional oversight plays a crucial role in this mission. However, parliamentary control, exercised by the Bicameral Commission for Oversight of Intelligence Agencies and Activities, has been weak thus far. Nevertheless, establishing this commission is essential to reversing this trend.

Therefore, as a primary measure, ICCSI requests the urgent completion of the formation of the Bicameral Commission, as well as an open dialogue from the Executive Branch, including the intervention of the AFI, to pursue a reform of the intelligence system agencies in line with what democracy requires.

We strive to contribute our vision and experience to all reform endeavors, yet we have failed to propel the necessary advancements for a restructuring that fulfills these expectations. We have proposed new institutional frameworks with concrete ideas and regulations for change, which must be embraced boldly, without half-measures, false prudence, or hidden agendas.

We hope that Congress will proceed with the appointment of all members of the Bicameral Commission, thereby establishing the primary oversight body for intelligence agencies and fostering valid interlocutors to deepen the debate on constructing an intelligence system commensurate with the democratic regime.

About ICCSI 

ICCSI is a coalition of organizations including the Instituto Latinoamericano de Seguridad y Democracia (ILSED), the Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS), and the Fundación Vía Libre, aimed at contributing to the strengthening of democratic control over the intelligence system in Argentina.