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Has Congressional Oversight of Intelligence Gone Too Far

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In his last public appearance while in office, former Director of Central Intelligence Robert M. Gates went to uncharacteristic lengths in criticizing the growing intrusiveness of Congressional oversight on national intelligence functions. Similarly, the two year tenure of his successor, R. James Woolsey, has been most notable for acrimony resulting from an ongoing public feud between Woolsey and Senator Dennis De Concini, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, over a host of issues, including oversight. Many senior officials of the national security and intelligence communities approach relations with Congress adversarially, generally proceeding from the notion that intelligence is a function exclusive to the President and that the involvement of Congress should be limited to paying bills. We will develop this relationship in the context of powers assigned under the Constitution of the United States to the Congress and the President. In the context of this discussion, intelligence activities are interpreted to mean those directed at agent or governments outside the United States, related specifically to key federal responsibilities of providing for common defense and conduct of foreign affairs. We are not talking here about gathering of information in support of domestic law enforcement -- an entirely separate, though no less controversial, constitutional issue. Other Constitutional powers -- such as appropriation of funds and organization and staffing government activities -- play an integral role in execution of intelligence activities however, they are incidental to the primary competition over policy and will be incorporated as an adjunct to our main discussion.

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  • Sociology and Law
  • Military Intelligence

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