Critics and Defenders: A Review of Congressional Oversight   [open pdf - 35KB]

"Permanent, continuing, day-to-day Congressional oversight of the US Intelligence Community (IC) marked its 20th anniversary in May 1996. Two decades earlier, Senate Resolution 400 established the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) following revelations of 'intelligence abuses.' In July 1997, the SSCI's House counterpart, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), will celebrate its 20th birthday. During this time, the IC's missions, responsibilities, capabilities, size, and management have experienced dramatic changes. The Congressional oversight committees have played a significant role in shaping these changes and continue to do so. Some individuals within the Community have argued, with a certain amount of justification, that Congressional oversight has been intrusive, meddling, shortsighted, and counterproductive; has involved micromanagement on a grand scale; and has served to drag the IC into the political cockpit of partisan politics from which it had previously been immune. Others tend to view Congressional oversight as being, on balance and after a somewhat rocky start in the late 1970s, a decided plus for the Community by providing loci for Congressional advocacy and support for intelligence and by providing rigorous review and questioning of intelligence activities and budgets. Perhaps, in looking back at what Congressional oversight has and has not been, we will be better able to discern the future of oversight by the Congress. First, it is important to dispel the popular notion that Congressional oversight started with the establishment of the SSCI and the HPSCI. That notion is not accurate. Before their establishment, however, oversight was certainly not intense or much of an inconvenience to the agencies that carried out intelligence activities."

Public Domain
Retrieved From:
Center for the Study of Intelligence: https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/index.html
Media Type:
Studies in Intelligence (Semiannual Edition 1997), no.1
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