INTELLIGENCE OVERSIGHT

Material from the 2000s

J - N

Johnson, Loch K. "Accountability and America's Secret Foreign Policy: Keeping a Legislative Eye on the Central Intelligence Agency." Foreign Policy Analysis 1, no. 1 (Mar. 2005): 99-120.

From Abstract: Intelligence oversight since 1975 has mostly been "a story of discontinuous motivation, ad hoc responses to scandals, and reliance on the initiative of just a few members of Congress -- mainly the occasional dedicated committee chair -- to carry the burden.... [A]bsent still is a comprehensive approach to intelligence review that mobilizes most, if not all, of the members of the House and Senate standing committees on intelligence toward a systematic plan" of day-to-day oversight, without waiting for fire alarms.

Johnson, Loch K. "The Church Committee Investigation of 1975 and the Evolution of Modern Intelligence Accountability." Intelligence and National Security 23, no. 2 (Apr. 2008): 198-225.

This article proves to be both interesting and useful. As the author acknowledges, it only scatches the surface of the analysis to be done on how Congress has responded to the changed landscape left behind by the committee's work. Nonetheless, it is well worth a read. Johnson's "central thesis is that the Church Committee substantially strengthened the opportunities for lawmakers to keep tabs on America's hidden government, but that the level of rigor displayed by intelligence overseers in Congress has fallen below the expectations of the Committee's reformers in 1975."

Johnson, Loch K. "CIA Needs Vigilant Oversight, but It Won't Always Work." Washington Post, 30 Aug. 2009. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

"[H]igh-profile investigations will not transform human nature, turning intelligence officials -- or the presidents and White House aides who direct them -- into angels, unsusceptible to zeal and folly.... We will launch new investigations and introduce new reforms, but sometimes all we can do is clean up the messes after the fact. So let's get used to it."

Johnson, Loch K. "Congressional Supervision of America’s Secret Agencies: The Experience and Legacy of the Church Committee." Public Administration Review 64, no. 1 (Jan.-Feb. 2004): 3-14.

Johnson, Loch K. "Ostriches, Cheerleaders, Skeptics, and Guardians: Role Selection by Congressional Intelligence Overseers." SAIS Review 28, no. 1 (Winter-Spring 2008): 93-108.

"Since 1975, members of Congress have displayed four general responses to the call for greater intelligence accountability": Ostriches, Cheerleaders, Skeptics, and Guardians. "Ultimately, it is the guardians that should serve as models for the future," as they seek to strike "a balance between serving as partners of the intelligence agencies on Capitol Hill, and ... demanding competence and law-abiding behavior from these agencies."

Kaiser, Frederick. Congressional Oversight of Intelligence: Current Structure and Alternatives. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, 25 Aug. 2010. [Available at: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/intel/RL32525.pdf]

"This report first describes the Select Committees on Intelligence and then the former Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, often cited as a model for a counterpart on intelligence. The study also sets forth proposed characteristics for a joint committee on intelligence, differences among these, and their pros and cons. The report ... examines other actions and alternatives affecting congressional oversight in the field."

Kaiser, Frederick M. "GAO Versus the CIA: Uphill Battles against an Overpowering Force." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 15, no. 3 (Fall 2002): 330-389.

"From the CIA's perspective, GAO lacks independent statutory power to perform audits, evaluations, examinations, or reviews of the Agency, its personnel, operations, or activities.... In contrast, the GAO maintains that it possesses sufficient authority to conduct such audits and reviews but lacks the necessary enforcement powers to carry them out.... [T]he competition between GAO and the CIA has been one-sided and generally won by the Central Intelligence Agency."

Kane, Paul. "GAO Seeks Review of Spy Agencies: The Outgoing Chief Auditor Makes a Pitch on Capitol Hill." Washington Post, 7 Mar. 2008, A15. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

Comptroller General David M. Walker, whose 10-year term concludes on 12 March 2008, "is again asking Congress to give the Government Accountability Office [GAO] the power to review the finances of the CIA and other intelligence agencies.... [T]he Justice Department issued a ruling in the early 1990s that restricted oversight of the CIA to House and Senate select committees on intelligence." Lawmakers and others question "whether the GAO is too closely aligned with the congressional majority and whether its investigators have the proper clearances to handle classified intelligence matters."

Writing to IAFIE members, Mark M. Lowenthal commented: "GAO has been sucking around the IC for years, trying to get in. Bad case of oversight envy. They could never articulate what they would bring, they just wanted in. I never understood the value add proposition." To which, J. Ransom Clark added: "I always figured that GAO's hots for the IC role was connected with bureaucratic politics -- expand your responsibilities, get more staff for the new responsibilities, get more dollars to pay staff and handle the new responsibilities, grow your empire. Sounds like a normal bureaucratic imperative to me." And Bart Bechtel noted: "GAO needs to examine itself. There is no oversight of this office anywhere near what already exists in the IC. GAO was a pass the buck exercise by Congress wanting to avoid its duty."

Kane, Paul. "House Intelligence Chairman Reyes Says CIA Lied to Committee." Washington Post, 9 Jul. 2009. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

On 7 July 2009, HPSCI chairman Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) sent a letter to the House leadership accusing "the CIA of lying to the panel in a classified matter." This is "the second time in less than two months that a top House Democrat has charged the spy agency of intentionally misleading Congress."

Kane, Paul, and Joby Warrick. "House Panel to Investigate Canceled CIA Program." Washington Post, 18 Jul. 2009. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

"The House intelligence committee announced [on 13 July 2009] it will investigate the CIA's handling of its secret al-Qaeda assassination program, including whether Vice President Richard B. Cheney improperly intervened to stop the agency from telling Congress about the initiative."

Knott, Stephen F. "The Great Republican Transformation on Oversight." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 13, no. 1 (Spring 2000): 49-63.

Knott develops the idea of "the abandonment by congressional Republicans of the prnciple of executive control of the nation's intelligence community.... [S]ince taking control of Congress in January 1995, Republican-dominated intelligence committees have strengthened the new oversight regime and displayed an aversion to executive secrecy that would make Frank Church proud....

"The [Anthony] Lake affair demonstrated in bold relief that the traditional Republican defense of the idea that the President should have his own national security 'team' had been abandoned by the party." And with regard to Newt Gingrich's "Iraq Liberation Act of 1998," "[i]n forcing the President to accept congressionally sponsored covert initiatives..., the Republicans have expanded the role of Congress in intelligence oversight to new, ill-defined, and dangerous levels."

[Litt, Robert.] "Does the Intelligence Community Keep Congress Fully and Currently Informed? Testimony of Robert Litt, General Counsel, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and Subcommittee on Intelligence Community Management, 27 Oct. 2009." Intelligencer 17, no. 2 (Fall 2009): 15-16.

"Since the beginning of the 111th Congress, the Intelligence Community has provided the HPSCI over 500 written Congressional notifications, given approximately 800 briefings, and participated in 20 HPSCI hearings."

Mazzetti, Mark. "Senate Panel to Pursue Investigation of C.I.A." New York Times, 27 Feb. 2009. [http://www.nytimes.com]

The SSCI "is completing plans to begin a review of the C.I.A.'s detention and interrogation program,... despite White House concerns about the impact of unearthing the past." On 25 February 2009, CIA Director Leon E. Panetta "said he opposed a blanket investigation into the C.I.A. program, saying agency operatives had been carrying out orders and acting with approvals from the Justice Department." See also, Joby Warrick, "Senate Panel to Examine CIA Detainee Handling," Washington Post, 27 Feb. 2009, A4.

Mazzetti, Mark, and Sheryl Gay Stolberg. "Wider Briefing for Lawmakers on Spy Efforts." New York Times, 18 May 2006. [http://www.nytimes.com]

On 17 May 2006, NSA Director Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander provided classified briefings to the full committee of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the adminsistration's "controversial domestic eavesdropping program."

Mazzetti, Mark, and Jeff Zeleny. "Next Chairman for Intelligence Opposed War." New York Times, 2 Dec. 2006. [http://www.nytimes.com]

Incoming House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has named Texas congressman Silvestre Reyes to be the next chairman of the House intelligence committee. Reyes is "a former Border Patrol agent and Vietnam combat veteran." He "voted against authorizing President Bush to go to war with Iraq." In September 2006, he "blasted the White House's justifications for the National Security Agency wiretapping program." Reyes taks over "a committee that in recent years has become one of Congress's most dysfunctional and partisan panels."

Murphy, George F. "Putting the Congressional Intelligence Genie Back in the Classified Bottle." Intelligencer 15, no. 2 (Fall/Winter 2006-2007): 21-22.

Argues for a Joint Committee on Intelligence, modeled after Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, as recommended by the 9/11 Commission.

Nakashima, Ellen. "Intelligence Oversight Bill Faces Obstacles: Issues Remain Despite Senate Approval." Washington Post, 18 Sep. 2009, A3. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

"The Senate has approved intelligence oversight legislation, deferring discussion of rules for interrogation and detention of terrorism suspects that have derailed previous proposals. But the nation's top intelligence official says he may recommend that President Obama veto the oversight proposals because they broaden traditional congressional briefings on covert activities."

New York Times. "[Editorial:] Beware of Tinkering Lawmakers." 28 Aug. 2004. [http://www.nytimes.com]

"Underpinning the 9/11 commission's call to reform the nation's intelligence services is the parallel warning that Congress must reform itself. The commission called on Congress to junk its 17-committee jungle of jurisdictional fiefs, which have failed miserably in their responsibility of oversight.... [A]ny real attempt at oversight means Congress must stop signing blank checks for the Pentagon, which controls most of the annual $40 biillion intelligence budget in various secretive ledgers. For openers, the budget should be made public."

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