Sensitive Covert Action Notifications: Oversight Options for Congress [January 29, 2010] [open pdf - 191KB]
"Legislation enacted in 1980 gave the executive branch authority to limit advance notification of especially sensitive covert actions to eight Members of Congress--the 'Gang of Eight'--when the President determines that it is essential to limit prior notice in order to meet extraordinary circumstances affecting U.S. vital interests. In such cases, the executive branch is permitted by statute to limit notification to the chairmen and ranking minority members of the two congressional intelligence committees, the Speaker and minority leader of the House, and Senate majority and minority leaders, rather than to notify the full intelligence committees, as is required in cases involving covert actions determined to be less sensitive. [...]. The Senate Intelligence Committee, in its version of the FY2010 Intelligence Authorization Act, left unchanged the Gang of Eight statutory structure, but approved several changes that would tighten certain aspects of current covert action reporting requirements. Although the executive branch has not issued a Statement of Administration Policy with regard to the Senate's bill, Director of National Intelligence Admiral Dennis Blair has indicated that he would recommend that the President veto the bill if the covert action notification changes contained in the bill remained in final legislation. Congress has not acted on the FY2010 Intelligence Authorization bill. With Congress considering possible changes in covert action congressional notifications, this report describes the statutory provision authorizing Gang of Eight notifications, reviews the legislative history of the provision, and examines both the impact of such notifications on congressional oversight as well as options that Congress might consider to possibly improve oversight."
CRS Report for Congress, R40691