Has Congressional Oversight of Intelligence Gone Too Far   [open pdf - 727KB]

In his last public appearance while in office, former Director of Central Intelligence Robert M. Gates went to uncharacteristic lengths in criticizing the growing intrusiveness of Congressional oversight on national intelligence functions. His successor, R. James Woolsey has also been most notable for acrimony resulting in open feuding between Woolsey and the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence over a host of issues, including oversight. This paper will develop this adversarial relationship in the context of powers assigned under the Constitution of the United States to the Congress and the President. In the context of this discussion, intelligence activities are interpreted to mean those directed at agents or governments outside the United States, related specifically to key federal responsibilities of providing for common defense and conduct of foreign affairs. After briefly reviewing what it is that Congress has done to generate criticism from the intelligence community, the paper then explores the answer to questions investigating the hypothesis: Does the Constitution provide for a national foreign intelligence effort? Is intelligence an activity reserved exclusively for the President? What basis is there for this presumption? What basis is there for congressional involvement and what is the extent of that involvement? Is there credible evidence that they have- in fact- overstepped constitutionally mandated separated powers, creating disequilibrium in the balance of power within government? Finally, and most importantly, is the national interest being best served under the current arrangement and what prospects are there for the future?

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