Congressional Oversight of Intelligence: Current Structure and Alternatives Page: 2 of 26
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Congressional Oversight of Intelligence: Current
Structure and Alternatives
Interest in congressional oversight of intelligence has risen again in 2007, in part
because of the House Democratic majority's pledge to enact the remaining
recommendations from the U.S. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the
United States, commonly known as the 9/11 Commission. Its conclusions in 2004
set the stage for reconsideration of the problems affecting Congress's structure in this
area. The commission's unanimous report, covering a wide range of issues,
concluded that congressional oversight of intelligence was "dysfunctional" and
proposed two distinct solutions. These were, (1) creation of a joint committee on
intelligence (JCI), modeled after the defunct Joint Committee on Atomic Energy
(JCAE), with authority to report legislation to each chamber; or (2) enhanced status
and power for the existing select committees on intelligence, by making them
standing committees and granting both authorization and appropriations authority.
Congress's interest in a joint committee on intelligence dates to 1948 and the
early years of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Director of Central
Intelligence (DCI). Similar recommendations have arisen in the meantime, although
the lion's share were made before separate intelligence committees were established
in the House (1977) and Senate (1976). The numerous proposals for a joint
committee on intelligence, which would end the two existing intelligence panels,
moreover, vary significantly across a number of dimensions and raise competing
viewpoints over practical matters and matters of principle.
Although it did not adopt either of the 9/11 Commission proposals, Congress
has pursued other initiatives for changing its intelligence oversight structure and
capabilities. This has occurred through the chambers' leadership, existing
committees, and a Senate bipartisan working group, leading to that chamber
restructuring its oversight panels. In the 110th Congress (H.Res. 35), the House
altered its arrangements when it created a Select Intelligence Oversight Panel on the
Appropriations Committee, a hybrid structure that is perhaps unique in the annals of
Congress. The new 13-member panel combines members of the House Permanent
Select Committee on Intelligence and the Committee on Appropriations to study and
make recommendations to relevant appropriations subcommittees, including the
Defense Subcommittee on the annual intelligence community appropriations. Other
proposals, some with a long heritage, include clarifying and expanding the
independent authority of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) over the
intelligence community, particularly the CIA. Additional options are to place the
CIA expressly under the Government Performance and Results Act and increase the
coordinative capabilities and reporting of relevant inspectors general.
This report first describes the current select committees on intelligence and then
covers 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, to be updated as events dictate, also examines other actions and
alternatives affecting congressional oversight in the field.
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Congressional Oversight of Intelligence: Current Structure and Alternatives, report, February 15, 2007; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc821785/m1/2/: accessed June 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.