Sensitive Covert Action Notifications: Oversight Options For Congress [July 7, 2009] [open pdf - 177KB]
"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. [...] In its mark-up of the FY2010 Intelligence Authorization Act, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) eliminated the Gang of Eight statutory provision, adopting instead a statutory requirement that each of the intelligence committees establish written procedures to govern such notifications. According to Committee report language, the adopted provision vests the authority to limit such briefings with the committees, rather than the President. [...] With Congress considering a possible change, this memorandum 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