Congressional Oversight of Intelligence: Current Structure and Alternatives Page: 4 of 26
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Congressional Oversight of Intelligence:
Current Structure and Alternatives
Congress has long considered various ways to oversee intelligence, an often
perplexing and always difficult responsibility because of the secrecy and sensitivity
surrounding intelligence findings, conclusions, dissemination, and sources and
methods.1 The first oversight proposal - to create a joint committee on intelligence
(JCI) - occurred in 1948.2 This was just one year after the establishment of the
Cental Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Office of Director of Central Intelligence
(DCI), both integral parts of the most far-reaching executive reorganization in United
States history.3 Numerous other initiatives to change Congress's oversight structure
have materialized in the meantime, including, most importantly, the creation of
parallel select committees on intelligence. The House and Senate's recent actions
modifying each body's own structure have diverged from each other4 and from the
9/11 Commission proposals. The commission's report concluded that congressional
oversight of intelligence was "dysfunctional" and recommended either a merger of
appropriations and authorization powers into each select committee or the creation
of a joint committee on intelligence.'
1 See CRS Report RL32617, A Perspective on Congress's Oversight Function, by Walter
2 H.Con.Res. 186, 80'h Cong., 2"d sess., introduced by Rep. Devitt, Apr. 21, 1948.
3 The monumental National Security Act of 1947 also gave birth to the National Security
Council and National Military Establishment, later re-designated as the Department of
Defense (61 Stat. 496 et seq.).
4 The House and Senate have considered proposals in this broad area through their existing
committees as well as a bipartisan working group in the Senate, which has recommended
enhancing the powers and status of the current intelligence committee. Sen. Mitch
McConnell, "Senators Reid and McConnell Convene Meeting of Bipartisan Working Group
to Reform Congressional Oversight of Intelligence," Press Release, Oct. 4, 2004; Sen. Bill
Frist, "Frist, Daschle Appoint Members to Working Group Evaluating 9/11 Commission
Proposals," Press Release, Aug. 25, 2004.
s U.S. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, The 9/11
Commission Report: Final Report (Washington: GPO, 2004), p. 420. The commission
offered a second option to strengthen oversight: i.e., "a single committee in each house of
Congress, combining authorization and appropriating authorities .... (Ibid.)."
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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/m1/4/: accessed January 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.