Intelligence Authorization Legislation: Status and Challenges [March 25, 2013]   [open pdf - 282KB]

"Over the years Congress has devised complex procedures for appropriations and authorization, but the pattern has been to separate the authorization and appropriation process and to establish separate committees to address the separate functions. Although intelligence spending has historically been shrouded in secrecy, the Constitution, statutory law, and legislative branch procedures apply to intelligence agencies as they do for all government departments and agencies. It is the purpose of this report to discuss the effects of the absence of intelligence authorization legislation subsequent to FY2005 and comment on the substantial but limited effects of recent intelligence authorization acts. It is recognized that the statutory requirements have been met by the catchall provisions in appropriations acts. The report will not focus on the reasons why Congress did not pass intelligence authorization; it is sufficient to note that Members did not choose to compromise either among themselves or with the White House on issues they considered important. In the absence of authorization legislation, intelligence activities continue to be carried out, and expensive and complex intelligence systems continue to be approved; but the process is somewhat different from that intended when the intelligence committees were established in the late 1970s and there are significant implications for congressional oversight of intelligence activities and, arguably, for the nation's intelligence effort as a whole."

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CRS Report for Congress, R40240
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