Congress as a User of Intelligence
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY WASHINGTON DC CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF INTELLIGENCE
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The intelligence services of the United States, like their counterparts in most countries, exist principally to serve the needs of the executive authority. The US intelligence apparatus, however unlike that of most countries also makes a large part of its output available to the legislative authority. It has not always been so. Before the mid-1970s, Congress was given little intelligence, and access to it was limited. The Congressional investigations of US intelligence agencies in 1975-76 by the Church and Pike Committees fundamentally altered this situation. For the first time, voluminous amounts of intelligence information were shared with the investigating committees. When permanent oversight committees were later created in both Houses, the trend toward ever-increasing disclosure continued. Ground rules to govern intelligence sharing were agreed to shortly after the oversight committees began operations, but none were written down. Over time, these understandings often gave way in the continuing tussle between the overseers and the overseen. Twenty years later, the system still operates without formal rules of the road. Serious problems, however, have largely been avoided because intelligence agencies have sought to accommodate virtually all Congressional requests in some manner. Congress, in turn, has generally demonstrated a willingness to protect the intelligence it has been given. The two sides continue to muddle along from one episode to the next, accommodating where they can, bending where they must.
- Government and Political Science
- Military Intelligence