"This report examines the role of Congress as a consumer of national intelligence and examines several issues that Congress might address during the second session of the 111th Congress. The President, by virtue of his role as commander-in-chief and head of the executive branch, has access to all national intelligence collected, analyzed and produced by the Intelligence Community. By definition, the President, the Vice President, and certain Cabinet-level officials, have access to a greater overall volume of intelligence and to sensitive intelligence information than do members of the congressional intelligence committees. Moreover, since the intelligence agencies are part of the executive branch, the President has the authority to restrict the flow of intelligence information to Congress and its two intelligence committees. The Fort Hood Army base shootings in November 2009, followed later that year by the Christmas Day airline bombing plot and the Afghanistan suicide bombing that killed seven Central Intelligence Agency employees refocused congressional attention on a number of intelligence issues, including the role Congress plays as a consumer of intelligence. Each of these cases serves to underscore the sensitivity with which Congress views the executive branch's statutory obligation to keep the legislative branch fully and currently informed of all intelligence activities."
CRS Report for Congress, R40136