Congressional Oversight of Intelligence: Curent Structure and Alternatives

Congressional Oversight of Intelligence: Current
Structure and Alternatives
Updated September 16, 2008
Frederick M. Kaiser
Specialist in American National Government
Government and Finance Division

Congressional Oversight of Intelligence: Current
Structure and Alternatives
Interest in congressional oversight of intelligence has risen again in the 110th
Congress, 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 2004
conclusions set the stage for reconsideration of the problems affecting Congress’s
structure in this area. The commission’s unanimous report, covering many 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 power.
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 JCI, which
would end the two existing intelligence panels, moreover, vary in their specifics 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 to change its intelligence oversight structure and
capabilities in the 110th Congress. The House altered its arrangements (H.Res. 35),
when it created an advisory Select Intelligence Oversight Panel on the Appropriations
Committee, a hybrid structure that combines members of the House Permanent Select
Committee on Intelligence and the Committee on Appropriations. The Senate has
also changed its relationship between appropriations and intelligence and its
Intelligence Committee has advanced others in this regard. Other proposals, some
with a long heritage, include clarifying the independent audit authority of the
Government Accountability Office (GAO) over the intelligence community,
particularly the CIA; placing the CIA expressly under the Government Performance
and Results Act; increasing the coordinative capabilities and reporting of relevant
inspectors general (IGs); and adding a new IG covering the entire intelligence
community and separate ones for certain Defense Department entities.
This report first describes the current 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, to be updated as events dictate, examines other actions and alternatives
affecting congressional oversight in the field.

In troduction ......................................................1
House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence......................2
Jurisdiction and Authority.......................................3
Membership and Leadership.....................................4
Secrecy Controls..............................................4
Joint Committee on Atomic Energy as a Model..........................5
Proposed Joint Committee on Intelligence Characteristics..................6
Methods of Establishment.......................................6
Jurisdiction and Authority.......................................7
Membership ..................................................7
Terms and Rotation............................................8
Leadership ...................................................8
Secrecy Controls..............................................8
Staffing ......................................................9
Budget and Funding............................................9
Pros and Cons................................................9
Pros ...................................................10
Cons ...................................................12
Alternatives to a Joint Committee....................................14
Changing the Select Committees’ Structure and Powers...............14
Senate Action............................................15
House Action............................................18
Concerns about Restructuring the Intelligence Committees........18
Improving Coordination Between the Two Intelligence Panels.........20
Joint Hearings...........................................20
Leadership Meetings......................................21
Constraints on Coordination................................21
Enhancing Interchanges with Other Panels and Members..............21
Goals ..................................................22
Techniques ..............................................22
Limitations ..............................................22
Other Options................................................23
Using Congressional Support Agencies........................23
Applying GPRA Requirements to the CIA.....................25
Enhancing the Inspectors General............................26
Observations on Oversight of Intelligence..............................27
Obstacles to Oversight.........................................27
Secrecy Constraints.......................................27
Appeal of Intelligence Oversight.............................28
Overcoming the Obstacles......................................28
Objectives and Goals......................................28
The Joint Committee Approach and Alternatives................28

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 intelligence2
(JCI) — appeared in 1948. 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 initiatives to change Congress’s oversight structure have
materialized in the meantime, including, most importantly, the creation of parallel
Select Committees on Intelligence in both chambers. Nonetheless, Congress’s
oversight capability in this area has been questioned. The 9/11 Commission’s report,
released in 2004, notably, 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 Committee4
on Intelligence. Since then, the House’s and Senate’s actions modifying each body’s
own structure have followed different paths, diverging not only from the 9/115

Commission proposals but also from each other.
1 See, among other sources, CRS Report RL32617, A Perspective on Congress’s Oversight
Function, by Walter J. Oleszek; CRS Report RL33742, 9/11 Commission
Recommendations: Implementation Status, by Richard F. Grimmett, Coordinator; and CRS
Report RL33715, Covert Action: Legislative Background and Possible Policy Questions,
by Alfred Cumming;
2 H.Con.Res. 186, 80th Cong., 2nd 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 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.).”
5 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

This report reviews the basic characteristics of proposed joint committees on
intelligence, differences among them, and perceived advantages and disadvantages.6
It also covers the congressional panels a JCI would replace: namely, the House and
Senate Select Committees on Intelligence. Along with this is a brief review of the
defunct Joint Committee on Atomic Energy (JCAE) — often cited as an
organizational model for a joint intelligence panel, as it has been for the 9/11
In addition, the report looks at recent actions, such as the creation of a new (and
possibly unique in the history of Congress) intelligence oversight panel on the House
Appropriations Committee, consisting of Members from both the parent committee
and the Select Committee on Intelligence; the new panel would make
recommendations regarding the annual intelligence community appropriations to the
Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. This report also covers separate
developments in the Senate, including a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) in
2007, designed to improve coordination and transparency between the Intelligence
Committee, which handles authorizations for the intelligence community, and the
Appropriations Committee, which handles appropriations for the same. Other ways
seen as strengthening oversight in this field would be to: (1) clarify and expand the
authority of Government Accountability Office (GAO) over the intelligence
community, particularly the CIA; (2) remove the Agency’s exemption from coverage
of the Government Performance and Results Act; and (3) increase coordination and
strengthen reporting requirements among the relevant offices of inspector general.
House and Senate Select Committees
on Intelligence
A joint committee on intelligence would replace the current House Permanent
Select Committee on Intelligence, established in 1977, and the Senate Select
Committee on Intelligence, created a year earlier.7 These units emerged after

5 (...continued)
Frist, “Frist, Daschle Appoint Members to Working Group Evaluating 9/11 Commission
Proposals,” Press Release, Aug. 25, 2004.
6 Additional coverage of JCI recommendations, characteristics, and perceived advantages
and disadvantages, which are detailed below, is available in U.S. Congress, House
Committee on Rules, Subcommittee on Rules of the House, House Rule XLVIII, hearing,stnd
101 Cong., 2 sess. (Washington: GPO, 1990); Frederick M. Kaiser, “A Proposed Joint
Committee on Intelligence: New Wine in an Old Bottle,” Journal of Law and Politics, vol.5,
fall 1988, pp. 127-186; and Independent Task Force, Council on Foreign Relations, Making
Intelligence Smarter: The Future of U.S. Intelligence (New York: Council on Foreign
Relations, 1996), pp. 32-33.
7 In addition to the citations in note 6 above, the development of and proposals for
congressional oversight of intelligence are examined in, among many other sources, U.S.
Congress, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Legislative Oversight of Intelligencerdnd
Activities, S.Prt. 103-88, 103 Cong., 2 sess. (Washington: GPO, 1994); U.S. Congress,
House Select Committee on Intelligence, Recommendations of the Final Report, H.Rept. 94-

extensive, detailed congressional and executive investigations revealed widespread
abuses in the intelligence community and concluded that effective congressional
oversight was lacking. The panels were set up to consolidate legislative and
oversight authority over the entire intelligence community, supplanting the
fragmented system at the time, which relied exclusively on disparate standing
committees. Although titled “Select,” the intelligence panels are hybrids of standing
and select committees, adopting characteristics of both types. For instance, the
panels have only temporary membership, as select committees have, because they are
usually short-term constructions; yet each panel holds authority to report legislation
to its own chamber, a power usually reserved to standing committees.
Jurisdiction and Authority
The Intelligence Committees have broad jurisdiction over the intelligence
community and report authorizations and other legislation for consideration by their
respective chambers. A recent change in the House places three members of the
Intelligence Committee on a new Select Intelligence Oversight Panel on the
Appropriations Committee (H.Res. 35, 110th Congress). The new panel, which
appears unprecedented in the history of Congress, is to study and make
recommendations to relevant appropriations subcommittees. This includes the
Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, which continues to prepare the annual
intelligence community budget, as part of the classified annex to the bill making
appropriations for the Department of Defense.
Most of the jurisdiction of the current Intelligence Committees is shared. The
select committees hold exclusive authorizing and legislative powers only for the
Central Intelligence Agency, the Director of National Intelligence (as it had over the
now-defunct Director of Central Intelligence), and the National Foreign Intelligence
Program. This leaves the intelligence components in the Departments of Defense,

7 (...continued)
833, 94th Cong., 2nd sess. (Washington: GPO, 1976), pp. 1-4; U.S. Congress, Senate Select
Committee to Study Governmental Activities with respect to Intelligence Activities, S.Rept.thnd
94-755, 94 Cong., 2 sess., Book II, Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans
(Washington: GPO, 1976), p. 339; Frederick M. Kaiser, “Congress and the Intelligence
Community,” in Roger Davidson, ed., The Postreform Congress (New York: St. Martins
Press, 1992), pp. 279-300; Loch K. Johnson, “Accountability and America’s Secret Foreign
Policy: Keeping a Legislative Eye on the Central Intelligence Agency,” Foreign Policy
Analysis, 2005, vol. 1, pp. 99-120, “Congressional Supervision of America’s Secret
Agencies,” in Loch K. Johnson and James J. Wirtz, eds., Strategic Intelligence (Los
Angeles: Roxbury Publishing, 2004), pp. 414-426; David M. Barrett, The CIA and
Congress: The Untold Story from Truman to Kennedy (Lawrence, Kansas: University of
Kansas Press, 2006); Mark M. Lowenthal, Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy
(Washington: CQ Press, 2006), Chapter 10; “Oversight and Accountability;” Center for
Strategic and International Studies, Congressional Oversight of National Security: A
Mandate for Change (Washington: CSIS, 1992); and Center for the Study of the Presidency,
Project on National Security Reform, Ensuring Security in an Unpredictable World:
Preliminary Findings, July 2008, pp. v-vii, 60-63, and 87-90, available at
[] .

Homeland Security, Justice, and Treasury, among other agencies, to be shared with
appropriate standing committees.
The House and Senate intelligence panels have nearly identical jurisdictions for
the intelligence community. The House panel’s domain, however, also extends over
an area that the Senate’s does not: “tactical intelligence and intelligence-related
activities,” which covers tactical military intelligence. In another departure, the
House select committee has been given authority to “review and study on an
exclusive basis the sources and methods of entities” in the intelligence community.8
Membership and Leadership
The membership of the committees has been limited in time, staggered, and
connected to the standing committee system and political party system in Congress.
These features, moreover, differ between the two panels. Each select committee, for
instance, reserves seats for members from the chamber’s committees on
Appropriations, Armed Services, Foreign Affairs/Foreign Relations, and Judiciary.
The specifics differ, however: the Senate requires two persons, a majority and
minority Member, from each of these standing committees, while the House calls for
only one Member from each standing committee with overlapping jurisdiction.
The two panels also differ in size (21 on the House panel and 15 on the Senate
counterpart, plus ex officio members on each), tenure, and other membership
features, including partisan composition and leadership arrangements. Since its
inception, the Senate panel has had only one more Member from the majority party
than the minority (an eight-to-seven ratio); and its vice chairman, who takes over if
the chair is unavailable, must come from the minority party. The House select
committee, in contrast, reflected the full chamber party ratio when it was established
in 1977: two-to-one plus one, resulting in an initial nine-to-four majority-minority
party membership on the panel. In the meantime, however, the minority party has
been granted additional seats on the committee and the majority-minority party ratio
in the full House has grown closer. The result is a select committee membership
party ratio of 12-to-9 in the 110th Congress.
Secrecy Controls
The committees also have different secrecy arrangements regarding controls
over their classified holdings. Secrecy oaths distinguish the two chambers. All
Members of the House, including, of course, those on the Intelligence Committee,
must swear or affirm not to disclose classified information, except as authorized by
the rules of the chamber; the current oath is modeled after a previous one which had
been required only for the members of the House Permanent Select Committee on
Intelligence. The Senate does not impose a similar obligation on its Members.9

8 House Rule 3(l), added by H.Res. 5, 107th Cong., January 3, 2001.
9 CRS Report RS20748, Protection of Classified Information by Congress: Practices and
Proposals, by Frederick M. Kaiser.

Non-member access to classified materials also separates the two panels. The
House committee has a more detailed and exacting set of requirements for non-
members than its Senate counterpart.
In addition, the Senate panel is authorized to disclose classified information
publicly on its own (following elaborate procedures in which the President and the
full Senate have an opportunity to act). By comparison, the House select committee
cannot do so, if the President objects to its release; in that case, the House itself
makes the determination by majority vote.
Joint Committee on Atomic Energy as a Model
The Joint Committee on Atomic Energy (JCAE) — set up by the Atomic Energy
Act of 1946, along with the Atomic Energy Commission (P.L. 585, 60 Stat. 772-773)
— is often cited as an appropriate organizational model for a joint committee on
intelligence, a reference the 9/11 Commission also adopted.10 The JCAE, an 18-
member panel composed of an equal number of Members from each house of
Congress, held authority to report legislation to the floor of both chambers, a power11
unique among joint committees. Many reasons have been offered for considering
the JCAE as a model:
!favorable record for keeping highly confidential material secret;
!largely bipartisan approach to policy-making;
!considerable unity among its members;
!close working relationship with the executive (here, the Atomic
Energy Commission) in this secretive and sensitive area;
!consolidated jurisdiction for a growing field;
!explicit, comprehensive oversight mandate, supported by a then-
unprecedented directive that the executive keep the joint committee
“fully and currently informed”; and
!ability to streamline the legislative process in general and to act
rapidly, if necessary, in particular instances.

10 For background and further citations on the JCAE, see CRS Report RL32538, 9/11
Commission Recommendations: Joint Committee on Atomic Energy — A Model for
Congressional Oversight?, by Christopher M. Davis; Harold P. Green and Allen Rosenthal,
Government of the Atom: The Integration of Powers (New York: Atherton Press, 1963); and
Kaiser, “A Proposed Joint Committee on Intelligence,” pp. 138-141.
11 One caveat to the unique status of the JCAE is the Temporary Joint Committee on Deficit
Reduction; it was authorized to report legislation but only on a narrow subject and on a case-
by-case basis. In contrast to the JCAE, this joint panel was a short-term, periodic addition
to Congress, set up by the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act of 1985. The panel could come
into existence only when legislation on budget sequestration was needed and was
empowered to report only a joint resolution setting forth specified reports from the Directors
of the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office. P.L. 99-
177, 99 Stat. 1037, 1100 (1985). This provision apparently was never activated and was not
included in the 1987 revision of GRH.

Given these attributes, the joint committee became a formidable congressional
panel. In its prime, JCAE was even considered by some as “probably the most
powerful congressional committee in the history of the nation.”12 Despite this — or
perhaps because of it — the JCAE was abolished in 1977, nearly 30 years after its
birth. It was evidently the victim of a number of reinforcing developments: concerns
inside and outside Congress about JCAE’s close, some thought cozy, relationship
with the executive agency it was overseeing; changing executive branch conditions,
such as the breakup of the Atomic Energy Commission into the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission and the Energy Research and Development Administration, now the
Department of Energy; new rivals in Congress, as the expanding nature of atomic
energy and nuclear power extended into the jurisdictions of a number of House and
Senate committees; efforts in the Senate at the time to realign and consolidate
standing committee jurisdictions and reduce the number of assignments for each
Member; and a relatively high number of vacancies on the JCAE (six of the 18
seat s). 13
Proposed Joint Committee on Intelligence
Recommendations to create a joint committee on intelligence have surfaced over
nearly five decades, most predating the establishment of the two select committees
on intelligence in the mid-1970s. Although many of these suggestions, including that
from the 9/11 Commission, have followed the design of the Joint Committee on
Atomic Energy, not all have; consequently, the specifics in the blueprints have varied
in a number of fundamental ways. Differences extend to (1) the range and
exclusivity of the panels’ jurisdiction; (2) makeup of their membership; (3) selection
and rotation of chairmen; (4) possibility of and characteristics of a vice chairmanship;
(5) requirements for representation of certain other committees as well as at-large
members; (6) special secrecy requirements for members and staff, including a secrecy
oath and security clearances; (7) staff size, method of selection, and restrictions on
activities; (8) official disclosures of classified information; (9) mechanisms for
investigating suspected unauthorized disclosures of such information; and (10) access
by non-members to the joint committee’s classified holdings. Even suggested
methods of establishment have varied.
Methods of Establishment
A joint committee on intelligence could be created by a concurrent resolution,
a joint resolution, or a regular bill. The Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, for
instance, was established by public law through the regular bill process (i.e., the
Atomic Energy Act of 1946, P.L. 580, 60 Stat. 772-773).
A concurrent resolution has the advantage (for its proponents) of requiring only
the approval of Congress, while a joint resolution or regular bill must be signed by

12 Green and Rosenthal, Government of the Atom, p. 266.
13 Kaiser, “A Proposed Joint Committee on Intelligence,” pp. 140-141.

the President or his veto overridden. A joint resolution or a bill, however, may offer
certain benefits to its supporters over a concurrent resolution. A number of existing
provisions in public law, especially ones dealing with intelligence reporting
requirements to Congress, designates the House and Senate Select Committees on
Intelligence as recipients (e.g., the intelligence oversight provisions and the reporting
requirements for the CIA Inspector General, codified at 50 U.S.C. 413-415 and 50
U.S.C. 403q, respectively). A bill or joint resolution, when creating a joint
committee, could amend these statutory provisions, whereas a concurrent resolution
could not do so directly. But a concurrent resolution, although solely a congressional
device, could have the same effect. By changing the rules of both chambers, a
concurrent resolution could recognize that the powers, authority, and jurisdiction of
the former select committees would be transferred to a new joint committee.
Jurisdiction and Authority
A joint Intelligence Committee could consolidate jurisdiction for the entire
intelligence community, extending to all intelligence entities as well as intelligence
and intelligence-related activities, including significant anticipated activities (i.e.,
covert operations). Legislative authority over intelligence could be shared for all
entities with overlapping jurisdiction; or, as is now the case in the House and Senate,
it could be held exclusively for certain specified components (e.g., CIA and DNI),
while being shared for others.
A bicameral body requires equal membership from both the Senate and House.
In addition to bicameralism, a joint committee on intelligence could be directed to
accommodate three other criteria: bipartisanship, representation of specified standing
committees, and at-large selection of members.
For example, the membership from each chamber could be required to have
representatives from standing committees with overlapping jurisdiction (e.g.,
Appropriations, Armed Services, Foreign Affairs/Foreign Relations, and Judiciary),
as both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees do now. This selection might
include both a majority and a minority party member from each represented
committee. A JCI could also call for a specified number of members selected at-
large, as the Senate intelligence panel does now. As an illustration, an 18-member
JCI could include nine Senators and nine Representatives, with five majority and four
minority party members from each chamber. At least one member, but not more than
two, could come from each of the four committees with overlapping jurisdiction; this
option (a maximum of eight from each chamber) would still allow for one selection
at large from each house. By comparison, a larger committee or a panel requiring
only a single member from each of the specified standing committees would allow
for more members to be selected at-large.
Provision could also be made for ex officio members, particularly the majority
and minority party leaders from the Senate and the Speaker and minority leader from
the House.

Terms and Rotation
Membership on the joint committee could have no term limits or be given a
maximum length of service (six or eight years, as the House and Senate Intelligence
Committees have had, or shorter or longer terms). Under term limits, the total time
on the committee might be measured either by continuous service or by non-
continuous service accumulated over a specified number of Congresses (e.g., a total
of eight years over six Congresses). If a JCI had maximum lengths of service, it
could be treated as a temporary assignment, which might not count against other
standing committee assignments in each chamber. By comparison, membership on
the JCI could be permanent.14 If so, it might be treated as if it were a standing
committee in each chamber, counting against other committee assignments.
Member terms could also be staggered, so that new members would arrive with
each new Congress. Staggered terms, however, would mean that a portion of the
original membership could not serve the maximum period, at least not as part of the
original composition.
The chair, selected at the beginning of each Congress or each session (as some
proposals called for), could alternate between the two chambers and/or political
parties. A vice chairmanship could also be established; this officer would replace the
chair when he or she is absent (as occurs now on the Senate Intelligence Committee).
The vice chair could be a member of the other body and/or the other political party.
Secrecy Controls
Various types of secrecy controls could be applied to a joint committee on
intelligence to regulate access to its classified holdings by non-committee members,
protect against the unauthorized disclosure of classified information, and allow its
authorized release. Such controls could (1) set requirements for determining access
by non-members; (2) require security clearances, oaths, and/or secrecy agreements
for committee members and staff; and (3) provide for investigation of suspected
security breaches, conducted by the House and Senate Ethics Committees.
Controls could also spell out procedures for disclosing classified information
to which the President objects, either by a joint committee itself, by the joint
committee in concert with either or both chambers, or by either or both chambers as
the final arbiter. One of five distinct options might be adopted: (1) the joint
committee on intelligence could act alone; (2) the panel could act only after one
house responded to a request from it to release classified information; (3) the JCI
could act only after both houses responded; (4) a single house could disclose the
information; or (5) both chambers would have to agree to do so. Currently,

14 The 9/11 Commission — referring to both a joint committee on intelligence and a new
standing committee in each house — recommended that “Members should serve indefinitely
on the committees, without set terms, thereby letting them accumulate expertise.” 9/11
Commission, Report, p. 421.

disclosure procedures differ between the House and Senate intelligence panels. The
House select committee does not have authority to release classified information on
its own. The full House must act to disclose it, at the request of its intelligence panel,
if the President objects to the release. On the Senate side, the select committee may
disclose classified information on its own, after both the President and full Senate
have acted.15 It appears that this procedure has not been used by the Senate panel.
The number of staff on a new JCI would presumably be smaller than the
combined total for both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. Hiring could
be accomplished in seven different ways: (1) by the majority party on the full JCI; (2)
by the majority party from each chamber on the committee; (3) by full committee
vote; (4) by the majority party and minority party separately; (5) by the chair alone;
(6) by the chair and vice chair/ranking minority member together; or (7) by individual
members (with each legislator selecting a single staff member). Additionally, staff
could be selected by a combination of several compatible ways (e.g., individual
member selections for some plus committee-wide selections for others). The staff
could also be required to meet certain agreed upon criteria set by the committee, such
as fitness for the duties and without regard to party affiliation.16
Staffers could be required to have an appropriate security clearance (for Top
Secret and access to Sensitive Compartmented Information), as is now mandated by
both House and Senate select committees. They could also be directed to sign a
nondisclosure or secrecy agreement not to reveal classified information, again a
requirement for the staff of both intelligence panels.
Budget and Funding
The budget for a joint committee on intelligence would presumably be smaller
than the combined budgets of the House and Senate intelligence panels. Funding
could be shared by both chambers, deriving equally from the contingent funds of the
Senate and House.
Pros and Cons
Differences over the establishment of a joint committee on intelligence tie into
practical matters as well as matters of principle.

15 The select committee’s charter provides for three responses from the full Senate to an
Intelligence Committee request to release classified information, if the President objects to
it. The chamber can (1) approve the disclosure; (2) disapprove the disclosure; or (3) “refer
all or any portion of the matter back to the committee, in which case the committee shall
make the final determination with respect to the public disclosure of the information inthnd
question” (Sec. 8(b)(5), S.Res. 400, 94 Cong., 2 sess.).
16 The 9/11 Commission, for instance, recommended that the “staff of this committee should
be nonpartisan and work for the entire committee and not for individual members.” 9/11
Commission, Report, p. 420.

Pros. Supporters of a joint committee on intelligence argue that it would make
for a more effective and efficient overseer than the current arrangement, which the
9/11 Commission concluded “is now dysfunctional,” because of limitations on the
two select committees.17 According to its proponents, a single joint committee,
housing fewer members and staff than the two existing ones combined, would:
!Strengthen oversight of intelligence for four primary reasons. The
executive would be more open and forthright with a single, small
oversight body than with two with a larger combined membership;
the legislators and staff on the JCI, recognizing that there is no other
authorizing panel to conduct oversight, would attach a greater
importance to this responsibility; a committee composed of
legislators from both chambers could better integrate and take
advantage of congressional expertise and experience in the field; and
a JCI could be established with fewer restraints and restrictions than
the separate select committees now have.
!Improve coordination, cooperation, and comity between the House
and Senate and among other relevant committees (with overlapping
jurisdiction) in both chambers. A joint committee could serve as a
conduit of information and advice and as a facilitator for policy
formulation between the two chambers as well as between the
political parties; a JCI could also encourage mutual respect and trust
between the chambers and parties; this could occur by treating all of
its members equally in committee leadership posts and voting, by
merging the stands of Members of both houses in committee
deliberations and decisions, by taking a joint committee consensus
on legislation, endorsed by Members of both chambers, to the floor
of each house, and by providing an opportunity for House Members
to be involved, if only marginally and informally, in a Senate
function (i.e., confirmation of presidential nominees).
!Streamline the legislative process, because only one committee,
rather than two, would have to consider and report legislative
proposals and authorizations to the floors of both chambers;
members from the same joint committee, moreover, might comprise
all or a majority of the membership of conference committees, which

17 Competing views on a joint committee on intelligence are available from Members and
committees of Congress, among other sources. Supportive arguments are included in: U.S.
Congress, Senate Temporary Select Committee to Study the Senate Committee System,
Report (Washington: GPO, 1984), pp. 13-14; Sen. Howard Baker and Rep. Henry Hyde,
statements before the Temporary Select Committee, Senate Resolution 127, To Study the
Senate Committee System (Washington: GPO, 1984), part 1, pp. 5-11 and part 2, pp. 83-85;
Rep. Henry Hyde, statement before the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress,rdst
Committee Structure, hearings, 103 Cong., 1 sess. (Washington: GPO, 1993), pp. 832-841;
and Minority, Senate Select Committee on Secret Military Assistance to Iran and the
Nicaraguan Opposition and House Select Committee to Investigate Covert Armsthst
Transactions with Iran, Report, S.Rept. 100-216 and H.Rept. 100-433, 100 Cong., 1 sess.
(Washington: GPO, 1987), p. 583.

might be less necessary in the first place because of the bicameral,
bipartisan makeup of a joint committee.
!Respond rapidly to investigate a major development, when
conditions dictated.
!Increase the stature of overseeing and legislating on intelligence
matters and, thus, make serving on an intelligence panel more
attractive and important than on either select committee. This could
result from making the joint committee the equivalent of a standing
committee, by granting it permanency and authority to report
legislation to each chamber and giving the members indefinite
tenure. A JCI with these characteristics would be unique in the
current era, the first of its kind since 1977, and apparently one of
only a few in the history of Congress, also elevating its stature.
!Make for more efficient government. A single panel, versus two,
would probably reduce the amount of time that the Administration
and intelligence officials would spend on Capitol Hill testifying,
briefing, notifying, and meeting with members and panels.
!Improve the protection of classified information in Congress’s
possession. A smaller number of legislators and staff on a joint
committee would have access to it, and a single office would be
easier to secure.
!Encourage trust between Congress and the Executive in this
sensitive field. This could occur by reducing the number of panels,
Members, and staff with access to such highly classified information
and by easing the cooperative relationship between the branches by
way of a single committee, instead of two.
!Pinpoint responsibility in Congress for oversight and legislation
affecting intelligence, thereby avoiding any confusion or uncertainty
about it.
!Cut back the total number of committee seats for legislators in the
House and Senate combined, by replacing the two panels with a
single committee with fewer seats; for instance, a new 18-member
joint committee with nine Senators and Representatives would be
half the size of the combined total of 37 on the two select
committees. The replacement would modestly help reduce the
number of legislators holding too many committee assignments
and/or being “spread too thin.” Reducing the number of seats
available for Representatives and Senators would allow them to
concentrate on one less committee assignment.
!Reduce costs, because of fewer staff and a single suite of offices.

Cons. Critics of proposals for replacing the current House and Senate
Intelligence Committees with a single joint committee contend that it would weaken
oversight and compromise a fundamental feature of the Congress, namely, two
different (and sometimes competing) bodies.18 As viewed by its opponents, a JCI
!Adversely affect oversight of intelligence. This would occur by
reducing the number of legislators and staff who have an incentive
and opportunity to conduct oversight and by reducing the number of
separate panels, with different characteristics and incentive
structures, to conduct it; in this regard, the number of committees to
which the President reports covert action plans is now only two (the
select committees on intelligence), having been reduced from eight
in 1980, at the request of the executive.
!Undercut the legislative benefits (e.g. longer deliberation time and
different viewpoints) of relying on two committees from separate
and distinctive chambers. This usual situation allows two panels —
each reflecting different chambers, types of constituencies, and
electoral schedules — to examine the same legislation and
authorizations and conduct oversight from different vantage points,
based on their own priorities and demands; the loss of a second view
would be felt not only in the initial committee deliberations but also
in later conference committee action, which might be dominated by
joint committee members.
!Cause a loss in continuity, stability, and experience. This would be
especially evident in joint committee leadership, if the chair (and
ranking member or vice chair) rotated every two years; this in turn
would make membership on the joint committee less desirable than
on other panels; the turnover could also extend to staff, because of
the frequent change in leadership; finally, this loss of stability and
experience could hamper Congress’s ability to influence public
policy and compete with the executive.
!Result in a more acute impact on Congress if a joint committee
develops a close and supportive relationship with the executive
entities it oversees, rather than a neutral and critical one. With a
single panel, Congress would have only one locus for oversight and

18 Criticisms and concerns are voiced by Rep. Dan Glickman, Rep. Larry Combest, and Sen.
Dennis DeConcini, statements before the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress,rdst
Committee Structure, hearings, 103 Cong., 1 sess., pp. 64-79 and 406-412; Rep. Larry
Combest, Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, IC21 — Thest
Intelligence Community in the 21 Century, The Intelligence Community Act of 1996, Mar.

4, 1996, p. 7; U.S. Congress, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. IC21:stthnd

Intelligence Community in the 21 Century (staff study), committee print, 104 Cong., 2
sess. (Washington: GPO, 1966), pp. 316-318 and 328; House Select Committee on
Committees, Final Report (Washington: GPO, 1980), p. 416; and Majority, Senate and
House Select Committees Investigating the Iran-Contra Affair, Report, p. 427.

checks on the executive, not two; if this happens, the impact on
Congress, on oversight, and on legislation would be more extensive
and significant, because of the absence of a possible balance from a
second committee.
!Operate contrary to the long-term tendency to end reliance on joint
committees, either by abolishing them or not establishing them in
the first place.19 A JCI, if authorized to report legislation to the
floor of both houses, would be unique currently; it would be the only
such empowered joint committee since 1977 (when the JCAE was
abolished), and one of the few in the history of the Congress; a joint
committee on intelligence would also raise the prospect of similar
panels for other policy areas, including homeland security, which
have wide-ranging jurisdictions that cross a number of executive
agencies and programs along with congressional committee
!Harbor uncertainty regarding confirmation of presidential nominees.
It might be unclear whether House Members should play any role at
all in the process or, if so, perhaps only at certain stages (e.g., initial
meetings and interviews, background investigations, formal
!Artificially make the political parties equal or nearly so. This could
occur, even though the differences in party ratios in each chamber
could be substantial, as they have been in the past.
!Artificially make the two chambers equal on the joint committee.
The number of Members from each chamber would be the same,
even though the House is more than four times larger than the
Senate; because of this situation, Representatives would have
proportionately fewer opportunities to serve on a joint committee
than Senators.
!Cut back the possibility of serving on an intelligence panel for all
Members of Congress, especially if there are no term limits on JCI
membership. This reduction in numbers would, in turn, reduce the
diversity and representational characteristics of the membership
compared to two separate committees.
!Bring about a change in the different jurisdictions that the current
select committees now hold. The House panel having a broader
jurisdiction than its Senate counterpart.

19 The 9/11 Commission (p. 421), for instance, did not advocate a joint committee for
homeland security. Instead, it called for consolidating jurisdiction in a permanent standing
committee in each chamber. For additional discussion on such a transformation, see CRS
Report RS21901, House Select Committee on Homeland Security: Possible Questions
Raised If the Panel Were to Be Reconstituted as a Standing Committee, by Judy Schneider.

!Not necessarily improve protection of classified information over the
current two select committees. Their controls over it are exacting
and their reputations in this regard are good; a JCI could also
require new procedures for the public release of classified
intelligence information held by the joint committee; this would
raise the prospect of (and cause disagreement over) whether the joint
committee alone could do so, whether one chamber could do so, or
whether both houses must act together as the final arbiter.
!Add confusion and conflict over investigations of suspected
unauthorized disclosures of classified information. This could arise,
for instance, if the ethics committee from one chamber conducted
investigations which involved members of the other body, even if
only tangentially and in an initial inquiry.
!Raise practical difficulties in setting meeting schedules, times, and
locations for panel members from two different chambers of
Alternatives to a Joint Committee
There are other options which might enhance and regularize congressional
oversight of intelligence. These changes, both formal and informal, could have an
impact not only on the structure of the current select committees on intelligence, but
also on their relationship with other committees and Members in its respective
chamber and its counterparts in the opposite chamber, as well as the relationship
between the legislature and the executive.
Changing the Select Committees’ Structure and Powers
The most direct and immediate among the options to increase and improve
oversight of intelligence would be ways to enhance the status, stature, and resources
of the existing select committees on intelligence or replace them with standing
committees.20 This might be accomplished through several different (and sometimes
competing) means:

20 The 9/11 Commission emphasized the need for “substantial change” in congressional
oversight, either by establishing a joint committee or by creating “a single committee in each
house of Congress, combining authorization and appropriating authorities .... “ Each panel
would be a standing committee and hold subpoena authority. The membership would be
relatively small and serve without term limits. Its composition would be nearly equal
between the parties, with the majority having only one more member than the minority, and
representing four panels with overlapping jurisdiction (i.e., Armed Services, Judiciary,
Foreign Affairs, and the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee) with one seat each on the
new committee. 9/11 Commission, Report, p. 420-421. For further information and
analysis, see CRS Report RS21908, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: Term Limits
and Assignment Limitations, by Judy Schneider.

!Grant the current select committees status as standing committees,
along with indefinite tenure for their membership, to reduce
turnover; increase experience, stability, and continuity; and make
membership on the panel more attractive.
!Expand the authority of such committees, giving them power to
report appropriations as well as authorizations and to hold subpoena
authority on their own.
!Place members of the Select Committee on Intelligence on their
chamber’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense or create a
new Appropriations Subcommittee on Intelligence, possibly
including Intelligence Committee members, with comprehensive
jurisdiction over IC appropriations.
!Establish a special advisory and oversight body on the
Appropriations Committee, combining Intelligence Committee and
Appropriations Committee members, as the House has done; under
this plan, the new panel would report its findings and
recommendations for IC funding to the defense or other appropriate
subcommittee, thereby modestly expanding the effective jurisdiction
and influence of the select committee.21
!Add professional staff, hire temporary consultants, set up short-term
task forces, and/or increase the use of congressional support
agencies, especially in fields where the panels might require new or
expanded expertise and skills.
Although neither the House nor the Senate adopted the 9/11 Commission
recommendations for intelligence oversight, other changes have occurred through a
variety of mechanisms. These include the chambers’ leadership, existing
committees, and a Senate bipartisan working group; these efforts have led to the
Senate’s restructuring its oversight panels and each chamber instituting new working
arrangements between its intelligence and appropriations panels.
Senate Action. The Senate’s response to the 9/11 Commission and other
recommendations for oversight of intelligence has proceeded through several phases.
Initial Changes in 2004. Several of these suggestions were approved by the
Senate on October 9, 2004, when it agreed to S.Res. 445 (108th Congress) affecting
its oversight of intelligence. The resolution eliminated certain restrictions on serving

21 This proposal materialized in 2007 in the House with members of the Intelligence
Committee serving on a special oversight panel on the Appropriations Committee (
35, 110 Congress). The concept was raised in late 2006 by Rep. Nancy Pelosi, then House
Minority Leader and prospective Speaker of the House. Tim Starks, “Pelosi Wants
Intelligence Appropriations Oversight Panel,”, Dec. 14, 2006; David Rogers,
“Pelosi Plans Panel to Oversee Spy-Agency Funds,” Wall Street Journal, Dec. 14, 2006, p.
A3; and “Pelosi Looks to Boost Oversight of Intelligence and Ethics,” Washington Post,
Dec. 15, 2006.

on the select committee, reduced the number of members (from 17 to 15), and
modified security procedures regarding the public disclosure of classified
information. S.Res. 445, however, did not transfer authority and jurisdiction over
intelligence appropriations to the Intelligence Committee; instead, it created an
Intelligence Subcommittee on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Structural Changes Involving the Committees on Intelligence and
Appropriations in 2007. Additional steps have been taken in the 110th Congress.
A prominent one is a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), designed to improve
coordination and transparency between the Intelligence Committee and
Appropriations Committee.22 The MOA — signed by the chairman of the select
committee (but not its ranking minority member) and the chairs and ranking minority
members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and its defense subcommittee —
advanced several changes to accomplish this:
!notify staff and allow them to attend the intelligence hearings of the
other body;
!allow each Intelligence Committee member who is also an
appropriator to bring his or her intelligence staff members to
Appropriations Committee hearings and markups;
!permit all Senators and cleared staff of one committee to review the
bill, report, and classified annex of the other before action is taken;
!give the chairmen and ranking minority members of each the
committee the opportunity to appear before the other panel to
present their views prior to the markup of either the intelligence
authorization or appropriations bills.23
Notwithstanding the effort, the effectiveness of the new arrangements under the
Memorandum of Agreement has elicited differing impressions. The chairman of the
Senate Intelligence Committee emphasized that the agreement “has made great
strides toward bringing our committees together in a unity of effort that was lacking
before.”24 A competing interpretation was offered by the Intelligence Committee’s
ranking minority member, who is also an appropriator. He determined that the MOA

22 Hon. John D. Rockefeller, Chairman, Opening Statement, in U.S. Congress, Senate Select
Committee on Intelligence, Congressional Oversight, hearing, 110th Cong., 1st sess., Nov.
13, 2007, p. 2. See also, letter to Hon. Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, and Hon. Mitch
McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, on changes in Senate oversight of intelligence, by Hon.
John D. Rockefeller, Chairman, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and others, Feb.

28, 2007.

23 Ibid., pp. 2-3.
24 Ibid., p. 3.

was “ineffective,” adding that “in my experience I’ve seen more evidence of the need
for a better synthesis of the two.”25
Proposed Changes Involving the Committees on Intelligence and
Appropriations in 2008. In March 2008, 14 of the 15 members of the Senate
Select Committee on Intelligence — led by Chairman Rockefeller and Vice
Chairman Christopher S. Bond — offered another proposal to the Senate
leadership.26 It called for the establishment of a Subcommittee on Intelligence on the
Appropriations Committee, which would include members of the Intelligence
Committee and would appropriate all funds for the National Intelligence Program
(NIP), as opposed to the current situation where such appropriations are divided
among several appropriations subcommittees. In defense of this option, Senators
Rockefeller and Bond reminded the Senate leadership that the 9/11 Commission’s
bolder recommendation — to consolidate authorization and appropriations authority
in the SSCI — “was considered and rejected by the Senate during consideration of
S. Res. 445 in October 2004.”27
This plan for a new Appropriations Intelligence Subcommittee was opposed by
the leadership of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Its chairman, Robert C.
Byrd, and ranking member, Thad Cochran, noted that other changes in oversight,
including those by way of the 2007 MOU, have been put into effect.28 They argued
that the proposed Intelligence Appropriations Subcommittee, “led by members of the
Intelligence Committee,” would prove counterproductive: “We strongly believe that
consolidating authority over intelligence in a smaller group of Senators is precisely
the wrong way to improve the Senate’s oversight of intelligence.”29 The Senators
added that the separation of authorization and appropriations functions should be
maintained and that consolidating appropriations for the entire NIP in one
subcommittee would have an adverse impact on other policies, such as foreign
policy, that are handled by different subcommittees.30

25 Hon. Christopher S. Bond, Opening Statement, in Senate Intelligence Committee,
Congressional Oversight, pp. 4-5.
26 Letter to Hon. Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, and Hon. Mitch McConnell, Senate
Minority Leader, on proposals to change Senate oversight of intelligence, from Hon. John
D. Rockefeller, Chairman, and Hon. Christopher S. Bond, Vice Chairman, Senate Select
Committee on Intelligence, and others, March 6, 2008, pp. 2-3. Reprinted in Congressional
Record, vol. 154, Sept. 11, 2008, pp. S8419-S8420.
27 Letter from Senators Rockefeller and Bond, on proposed changes (2008), p. 1. Despite
its rejection in the 108th Congress, an identical measure (S.Res 375) has been introduced inth
the 110.
28 Letter to Hon. Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leaders, and Hon. Mitch McConnell, Senate
Minority Leader, in response the proposal from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence,
from Hon. Robert C. Byrd, Chairman, and Hon. Thad Cochran, Ranking Member, Senate
Committee on Appropriations, April 5, 2008, p. 1.
29 Ibid., p. 2.
30 Ibid.

Despite this opposition, a formal proposal to create a new Appropriations
Subcommittee on Intelligence (S.Res. 655, 110th Congress) was sponsored on
September 11, 2008, by the vice chairman and chairman of the Senate Intelligence
Committee.31 In addition to placing the two Intelligence Committee members from
Appropriations on the new Appropriations Subcommittee on Intelligence, S.Res. 655
would also include the chairman and ranking member of the Defense Appropriations
Subcommittee and, as ex officio members, the chairman and vice chairman of the
Intelligence Committee. In introducing the resolution, Senator Bond emphasized
that “on the seventh anniversary of 9/11, it is noteworthy that there remains one
unaddressed 9/11 commission recommendation, and that is to reform the legislative
branch’s oversight of intelligence and terrorism activities which the commission
rightly described as ‘dysfunctional’.”32 As an alternative to the “bolder” 9/11
commission recommendations, which had been rejected, the Senator argued that
“many of us believe there is a better, less disruptive way to achieve reform through
a carefully constructive intelligence appropriations subcommittee.”33
House Action. In the House, the option to consolidate authority — by
reserving seats for Intelligence Committee members on the Defense Appropriationsth
Subcommittee — was raised at the end of the 109 Congress by Representative
Nancy Pelosi, then House Minority Leader and presumptive Speaker of the House inth34
the 110 Congress. The final product was a variation on this theme. H.Res. 35
(110th Congress), which passed the House on January 9, 2007, created a new Select
Intelligence Oversight Panel — consisting of 13 members and an eight-to-five inter-
party ratio — with three representatives from the Intelligence Committee joining 10
from appropriations, including the chairman and ranking minority member of the full
committee, the chairman and ranking minority member of the Defense
Subcommittee, and six additional members from appropriations. This special panel
is authorized to study and make recommendations to all appropriations
subcommittees on relevant areas, specifically the annual intelligence appropriations
to the Defense Subcommittee, which retains authority to report it to the full
Concerns about Restructuring the Intelligence Committees. The set
of changes producing a restructured and strengthened Intelligence Committee in each
chamber, as called for by the 9/11 Commission, might also generate concerns and
criticisms. A new standing committee — smaller than the existing select committees
in each chamber (if combined), with representation from four standing committees
with overlapping membership and indefinite tenure for its members — would
substantially reduce (1) the number of Members in each chamber serving on an
intelligence panel at any one time; (2) the number of at-large seats available; (3) the

31 S.Res. 655, 110th Cong., 2nd sess., introduced by Hon. Christopher S. Bond, for himself,
and Hon. John D. Rockefeller and Hon. Sheldon Whitehouse, “Senate Resolution 655 —
To Improve Congressional Oversight of the Intelligence Activities of the United States,”
Congressional Record, vol. 154, Sept. 11, 2008, pp. S8416-S8417.
32 Ibid., p. S8418.
33 Ibid., p. S8419.
34 Sources in footnote 21.

number of vacancies available over time; and, thus, (4) the likelihood of a Member
finding a seat on the committee. These changes in tandem would also lead to fewer
former members from the committee, thus, reducing the ability of the full chamber
and non-members to be knowledgeable about how the intelligence community
operates and intelligence policy; and it could result in a decline of the ability to
question if not challenge the committee (as well as the executive). Arguably, this
could result in the prospect of a closed system, making it easier for the intelligence
panels to dominate the agenda and debate in their respective chambers and in the full
A second set of cautions might surround the proposed new authority,
particularly, adding appropriations to its authorizing control and independent
subpoena power. Such subpoena authority, which could cover either or both
materials and individual testimony, would be held (and used) without needing
approval in each instance by the chamber. This might be seen as infringing on an
important full-chamber power and removing a check on this particular committee,
which would be already subject to fewer constraints than the current select
committees have.
The addition of appropriations approval would apparently produce a unique
situation in the contemporary Congress and a rarity in its entire history. A reversal
of this plan — placing Intelligence Committee members on the defense
appropriations subcommittee — also appears to be a rare, if not unprecedented
action; this revamped panel could better coordinate and complement the actions of
both committees. This change, moreover, could indirectly increase the power of the
select committee. By reserving seats for its members on the relevant appropriations
subcommittee, the Intelligence Committee would play a more direct and influential
role in appropriating IC funds than it does now. At this time, no other committee has
a comparable guarantee of seats on a relevant appropriations subcommittee.
Consequently, the left-out authorizing committees, particularly those dealing with
sensitive national security matters, might make the same appeal as intelligence: that
is, to have seats reserved on the appropriate appropriations subcommittee. Following
either avenue, the intelligence panel’s power would be enhanced if it held both
appropriations and authorization authority, either directly or indirectly (via its
members on the defense appropriations subcommittee).
In either event, however, the intelligence panel might be perceived as too
powerful. It would hold two impressive and reinforcing authorities and would no
longer be subject to a check and competition from a significant outside source (i.e.,
the Appropriations Committee in its chamber). At the same time, the transfer of
appropriations would remove an important part of the Appropriations Committees’
jurisdiction. Reserving seats for Intelligence Committee members on defense
appropriations could also reduce competing viewpoints and an independent check on
IC appropriations. Either change might encourage other authorizing committees to
request the same treatment, that is, to control both appropriations and authorizations.
Although the appropriations and authorization processes are parallel to one another,
they are not identical and not always reinforcing or complementary. The combined
authority could result in substantially more work for the Intelligence Committee in
each session, with the need to “scrub” the intelligence budget twice each year. Or,
alternatively, the transfer could lessen its examination of the appropriations and

authorization, if each were to occur only in alternate sessions within a single
Congress. The potential increase in the panel’s workload could have two adverse
ramifications: (1) short-change either the appropriations or authorization process, or
both; or (2) reduce the panel’s time for other legislative and oversight efforts.
By comparison to these two proposed changes — consolidating authorization
and appropriations in the Intelligence Committee or reserving seats on the Defense
Appropriations Subcommittee for Intelligence Committee members — the
establishment of the special intelligence oversight panel on the House Appropriations
Committee is more limited in its impact. Only three of its 13 seats are reserved for
Intelligence Committee members; and the new panel can only make
recommendations to the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, which continues to
report the annual intelligence community appropriations.
Improving Coordination Between the Two Intelligence Panels
Such changes would affect the Intelligence Committees’ individual structure and
powers. Others could be designed to increase coordination and shared responsibility
between the two intelligence panels — so as to avoid duplication, encourage
cooperation, develop working relationships across chambers, enhance understanding,
and share expertise, information, and knowledge — while at the same time,
maintaining the distinct characteristics of each panel. These might include joint
hearings and cross-committee leadership meetings, which may already exist on a
regular basis.
Joint Hearings. One option along these lines is to schedule joint hearings for
relatively routine and regular matters, such as the initial annual authorization
briefings from the Executive. Another opportunity for a joint session would occur
when the inspectors general in the intelligence community, especially at the CIA,
submit their semiannual reports to Congress. These shared enterprises could allow
the combined membership to receive the same information and data as each panel
would individually, establish working relationships among the two groups of
members, encourage cross-fertilization among them, and reduce duplication for the
Executive. Of course, followup hearings could be handled separately by the two
panels and may even be stimulated by such joint efforts. The shared experience over
the initial budget submission could also help to avoid duplication of effort over some
modest matters, while helping to set priorities for more significant ones.
Joint hearings could also be conducted into critical events, as they were with the35
select Intelligence Committees combined inquiry into 9/11 attacks. Another
example of an inquiry with panels from both chambers was the Iran-contra affair, an

35 U.S. Congress, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and House Permanent Select
Committee on Intelligence, Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and
After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, S.Rept. 107-351 and H.Rept. 107-792,thnd

107 Cong., 2 sess. (Washington: GPO, 2002).

investigation conducted by two temporary committees working together and issuing
a joint report.36
Leadership Meetings. Another means of encouraging inter-chamber
cooperation is for the leadership of the two panels to meet regularly to discuss issues,
concerns, and priorities (recognizing, of course, the practical and political limitations
on such exchanges). These efforts might include only the full committee chairs or
might extend to subcommittee heads and majority and minority members. These
sessions could be supplemented by meetings of senior staff on both panels, at the
direction of the leadership. Whatever the arrangement, a number of different
opportunities exist to enhance awareness of common concerns and cooperation in
examining them between the two panels.
Constraints on Coordination. Coordination between two panels from
different chambers may encounter practical and political problems. Scheduling
meetings and hearings, especially if a large number of members is involved, for
instance, runs into several hindrances. These include: (1) different priorities and
meeting arrangements for each committee; (2) competing chamber and committee
responsibilities for Members, especially Senators, each of whom serve on more
committees than Representatives; and (3) different electoral and campaign
requirements, which affect the demands on Members and the time they spend in the
capital. In addition, rival political affiliations and policy stands, along with
competition between the chambers for influence over public policy, might make
cooperative ventures few and far between.
Enhancing Interchanges with Other Panels and Members
Other approaches to increasing the powers of each panel and their cooperative
ventures might be considered: ease the exchange of information with non-committee
members, allow for more oversight by other committees, and/or increase contacts
among members of the appropriations and authorizing panels. Along these lines, the
9/11 Commission wrote: the “new committee or committees should conduct studies
of the activities of the intelligence agencies and report problems relating to the37
development and use of intelligence to all members of the House and Senate.”
Placing Intelligence Committee members on the defense appropriations
subcommittee or on a special appropriations intelligence oversight panel, as the
House has done, also eases interchanges between these two committees. Other ways
of increasing coordination between the appropriations and authorizing committees
— through formalized member and staff involvement in the other panel’s hearings,
for instance — have been advanced in the Senate, as noted above.

36 U.S. Congress, Senate Select Committee on Secret Military Assistance to Iran and the
Nicaraguan Opposition, and House Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms
Transactions with Iran, Report on the Iran-Contra Affair, S.Rept. 100-216 and H.Rept. 100-thst

433, 100 Cong., 1 sess. (Washington: GPO, 1987).

37 9/11 Commission, Report, p. 420.

Goals. This type of change could reduce the challenge of intelligence oversight
on the select committees, bring different viewpoints to bear on intelligence matters,
expand the knowledge of Members not on the panels, and allow for their informed
judgments on intelligence policy and programs as well as on committee activities and
operations. Strict controls over the classified information would have to be
maintained. The current committee rules — which on the House side are more
stringent than on any other committee — might be modified to accommodate
additional sources for review and oversight. Such a revision could begin with a
comparison of access controls by other panels, particularly the committees with
overlapping membership. In addition, House and Senate chamber rules authorizing
secret or closed sessions might be used more often to allow for an open exchange of
information between the Intelligence Committees and all the Members of a particular
chamber. Along with this, committee members might be allowed to present
“declassified” versions of sensitive or otherwise classified reports to their colleagues,
in secret or open sessions.
Techniques. Several potential techniques to expand non-committee
involvement and non-member access to information follow:
!Ensure that relevant information is appropriately and expeditiously
shared with committees with overlapping membership.
!Give greater allowance for other committees to conduct oversight of
intelligence components, activities, and programs, including
standing committees without overlapping membership.38
!Ease access for non-members to Intelligence Committee holdings,
by reducing the exacting requirements over the availability of the
!Encourage the Intelligence Committees, on their own initiative, to
share information as appropriate with the full membership of their
!Make more information available to non-members by securing
declassification of certain intelligence reports or by providing
classified and declassified versions of IC reports (for the committees
and for the general membership, respectively); the agencies proper
or their inspectors general (charged with preventing and detecting
waste, fraud, and abuse) might do either or both, possibly at the
request or directive of the Intelligence Committees.
Limitations. Interchanges between the Intelligence Committees, on the one
hand, and other panels and Members, on the other, might be limited for several
reasons. Concerns about the unauthorized disclosures of classified information might
be raised as the possibility of leaks rises, because of the increased number of

38 See especially House Subcommittees on Efficiency and on National Security, CIA
Refusal, 2001.

individuals with access to sensitive information. Along with this, intelligence
agencies would likely be reluctant to respond to congressional requests for sensitive
and classified information, even from the Intelligence Committees, if the agencies
anticipate that all or some of it will be disclosed outside the sequestered Intelligence
Committee rooms, possibly to the floors of both houses.
Another possibility, which might retard information-sharing by the Intelligence
Committees, could be a concern about a reduction in their control over the
intelligence agenda and debate. As more Members and panels became familiar with
the relevant information and policies, more questions might arise relating to the
committees’ policy positions. This development might be seen as weakening the
committees, a condition that might reduce their (and, in turn, Congress’s) influence
over intelligence agencies and policies in dealings with the Executive.
Other Options
Several other options could enhance congressional oversight over the
Intelligence community.
Using Congressional Support Agencies. Other options might enhance
the oversight capabilities of the select committees on intelligence along with other
appropriate panels.
Increased Use. One approach is to increase the use of the legislative support
agencies — Congressional Budget Office, Congressional Research Service, and
Government Accountability Office (GAO), formerly the General Accounting Office
— where appropriate.39
New Authority for GAO to Audit the IC. A supplemental proposal would
be to clarify and expand GAO’s independent authority to audit all components of the
Intelligence Community (IC). Legislation has been introduced in the 110th Congress
(H.R. 978 and S. 82) to accomplish this; and hearings have been held on the Senate
version.40 These and similar proposals, which date to the mid-1970s, are the result
of a fundamental disagreement between GAO and the IC with regard to the Office’s
authority and jurisdiction over all of them.

39 The oversight roles of the support agencies are spelled out in CRS Report RL30240,
Congressional Oversight Manual, by Frederick M. Kaiser, et al.
40 The Intelligence Community Audit Act, H.R. 978 and S. 82, 110th Cong. Congressional
hearings and press coverage include U.S. Congress, Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of
Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia,thnd
Government-wide Intelligence Community Reform, hearings, 110 Cong., 2 sess., Feb. 29,

2009, available at [

Hearings.Detail&HearingID=301d0683-d270-41a2-b024-9736f89e0df2]; Chris Strom,
“Panel witnesses press for GAO audits of intelligence agencies,” Government Executive,
available at [
022908cdpm2.htm], February 29, 2008; and Paul Kane, “GAO Seeks Review of Spy
Agencies,” Washington Post, Mar. 7, 2008, p. A15.

The Government Accountability Office possesses nearly unfettered jurisdiction
to audit and investigate the federal government. GAO’s access, however, may be
precluded in certain situations: by the President, if it involves sensitive or classified
records, such as foreign intelligence and counterintelligence activities; in instances
where records are statutorily exempted from disclosure; or in cases where an
executive agency holds competing powers which are used to prevent GAO access.41
The last of these obstacles to full access has led to conflicts between the
Government Accountability Office and the Intelligence Community, particularly the
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).42 The CIA views its own statutory authority as
keeping it off-limits to independent GAO audits and investigations. Under this
interpretation, the CIA has declined to participate in GAO reviews (as well as in
some congressional oversight hearings held by panels other than the Select
Committees on Intelligence); and the Agency has, on occasion, attempted to enlist
other components to do the same.43 In contrast to the CIA’s position, however, other
IC entities have not asserted the same proscription against GAO audits. For instance,
the Department of Defense, which houses the largest number of intelligence units,
has issued the following instructions:
It is DoD policy that the Department of Defense cooperate fully with the GAO
and respond constructively to, and take appropriate corrective action on the basis
of, GAO reports .... [But DoD is also to] be alert to identify errors of fact or

41 Statutory citations for such restrictions include Central Intelligence Agency Act of 1949,
63 Stat. 213; General Accounting Office Act of 1980, 94 Stat. 311; 31 U.S.C. 716(d); and

31 U.S.C. 716(b) and 3524(c).

42 GAO is limited in its independent authority to audit and investigate the CIA, because of
provisions in public law and congressional rules as well as tradition and precedents. The
CIA, however, is the only intelligence component which makes such an across-the-board
claim. See U.S. General Accounting Office, Central Intelligence Agency: Observations on
GAO Access to Information on CIA Programs and Activities, statement by Henry J. Hinton,
GAO-01-975T (Washington: GAO, 2001); Information Sharing, GAO-06-385,
(Washington: GAO, 2006), pp. 6-7;and DOD Personnel Security Clearances, Letter to
Honorable George V. Voinovich, Chairman, Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of
Government Management, June 14, 2006, p. 1. See also U.S. House Government Reform
Subcommittees on Government Efficiency and on National Security, Is the CIA’s Refusal
to Cooperate with Congressional Inquiries a Threat to Effective Oversight of the Federalthst
Government, hearings, 107 Cong., 1 sess (Washington: GPO, 2001); Frederick M. Kaiser,
“GAO Versus the CIA: Uphill Battles Against an Overpowering Force,” International
Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, vol. 15 (2002), pp. 330-389; and CRS
Report RL30349, GAO: Government Accountability Office and General Accounting Office,
by Frederick M. Kaiser.
43 See House Government Reform Subcommittees on Government Efficiency and National
Security, CIA’s Refusal to Cooperate, pp. 1-8. The subcommittee chairmen emphasized that
the CIA had initially agreed to participate in a GAO survey of computer security programs
but later declined. The Agency also attempted, unsuccessfully as it turned out, to have other
IC entities follow suit. Finally, the CIA declined to participate in any of the subcommittees’
hearings or meetings, even if held in executive or secret session.

erroneous interpretation in GAO reports, and to articulate the DoD position in44
such matters, as appropriate.
GAO has taken exception to the CIA’s position, emphasizing that the Office has
authority to audit the Agency independently but lacks enforcement power.45 If
enacted, the Intelligence Community Audit Act would change this situation. These
and similar proposals, which were first raised in the mid-1970s, are designed to
“reaffirm the authority of the Comptroller General to audit and evaluate the
programs, activities, and financial transactions of the intelligence community.”46
Applying GPRA Requirements to the CIA. A different scheme would
affect the executive directly: place the CIA expressly under the requirements of the
Government Performance and Results Act, commonly referred to by its initials
(GPRA) or as the Results Act. This 1993 enactment emphasizes assessing agencies
based on outcomes (that is, their performance and results) rather than outputs (for
instance, meeting certain deadlines, quotas for issuing grants, or expenditure
levels).47 The CIA remains the only significant explicit exemption to GPRA’s
mandates. These include developing a broad mission statement; a five-year strategic
plan flowing from it; an annual performance plan, setting specific objectives and
ways to carry out the strategic plan; and a followup evaluation of the agency’s
accomplishments, failures to meet expectations, and reasons for both. These GPRA
reports from the CIA could be submitted to the House and Senate Intelligence
Committees in a classified version.

44 Department of Defense Instruction 7650.02, November 20, 2006.
45 Elaboration of GAO’s support for such new authority and the DNI’s (and the previous
DCI’s) opposition appears in, letter from David M. Walker, Comptroller General, to Hon.
John D. Rockefeller, Chairman, and Hon. Christopher S. Bond, Vice Chairman, Senate
Select Committee on Intelligence, March 1, 2007; and letter from J. M. McConnell, Director
of National Intelligence, to Hon. John D. Rockefeller, Chairman, and Christopher S. Bond,
Vice Chairman, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Mar. 7, 2007. See M.Z.
Hemingway, “GAO wants more muscle,” Federal Times, March 26, 2007, p. 1; and “GAO
Seeks Greater Role in Oversight of Intelligence,” Secrecy News, Oct. 3, 2007, available at
[]. For the competing views of the disputes over independent GAO
access, which date to the earliest days of the CIA, see U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, DCI
Affirmation of Policy for Dealing with the General Accounting Office (GAO), Memorandum
for the Director of Central Intelligence, from Stanley L. Moskowitz, Director of
Congressional Affairs, 7 July 1994; U.S. General Accounting Office, Central Intelligence
Agency: Observations on GAO Access to Information on CIA Programs and Activities,
statement of Henry J. Hinton, GAO-01-975T (2001); letters from the Comptroller General
to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), April 27, 2006, and to the Chairman and
Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and
Governmental Affairs, May 15, 2006, disagreeing with the DNI’s position that the “review
of intelligence activities is beyond the GAO’s purview,” as stated in Information Sharing,
GAO-06-385 (2006), pp. 6 and 71.
46 H.R. 978 and S. 82, 110th Congress.
47 P.L. 103-62, 107 Stat. 285.

Enhancing the Inspectors General. A different set of alternatives would
rely upon changes in offices of inspector general (OIGs), established in executive
departments and entities to combat waste, fraud, and abuse and to keep the agency
head and Congress fully and currently informed about these matters.48 Changes that
might directly or indirectly benefit congressional oversight of intelligence would be
to: (1) ease and increase coordination among the relevant offices of inspectors49
general through existing or new councils and other mechanisms; (2) establish a new
post of inspector general with comprehensive jurisdiction over the intelligence50
community; (3) place several of the administratively established IGs in the Defense
Department under the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended; 51 (4) clarify and
strengthen the jurisdiction and authority of the statutory OIGs over the administrative
counterparts within an agency or department; and (5) augment the authority,
jurisdiction, independence, and reporting requirements of the IG in the Office of the
Director of National Intelligence.52

48 5 U.S.C. Appendix. For an overview and other sources, see CRS Report 98-379, Statutory
Offices of Inspector General: Past and Present, by Frederick M. Kaiser.
49 In the 110th Congress, several legislative initiatives are designed to enhance the
independence of and coordination among inspectors general. This would occur through
additional protections for the IGs and a new coordinative council, which would include the
statutory IGs in the intelligence community (IC), among others operating under the IG Act
and other laws. Prominent bills are H.R. 928, which passed the House, and S. 2324, a
modified version, which has been approved by the Senate. Some of their provisions,
however, have been opposed by the Bush Administration, which has raised the prospect of
a veto. For coverage, see CRS Report RL34176, Statutory Inspectors General: Legislative
Developments and Legal Issues, by Vanessa K. Burrows and Frederick M. Kaiser.
50 Notwithstanding its overarching jurisdiction, the IC inspector general would not replace
the existing counterparts in various departments and agencies. The proposal, however, didth
not reach fruition, as the FY 2008 Intelligence Authorization Act (H.R. 2082, 110 Cong.)
was vetoed by President Bush and his veto sustained. Congressional Record, vol. 154,
March 11, 2008, pp. H1503-H1514. A similar recommendation has been included in theth
proposed FY2009 Intelligence Authorization Act (H.R. 5959, 110 Cong.), also meeting
objections from the Bush Administration. See U.S. Office of Management and Budget,
“Statement of Administration Policy: H.R. 5959 — Intelligence Authorization Act for FY

2009,” July 6, 2008.

51 The FY 2009 Intelligence Authorization Act (H.R. 5959, 110th Cong.), reiterating sections
of the (vetoed) FY2008 bill, would place four DOD intelligence entities — the National
Reconnaissance Office, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, and the
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency — under the Inspector General Act of 1978, as
amended (5 U.S.C. Appendix). These agencies would be the equivalent of “designated
federal entities,” that is, entities whose IGs are appointed by and removed by the agency
head. In addition, the Secretary of Defense would be able to prevent or halt an audit or
investigation, if the Secretary or DNI determined that such a prohibition would be necessary
to protect vital U.S. national security interests. The House and Senate Committees on
Armed Services and on Intelligence would have to be notified of such an exercise by the
Secretary of Defense.
52 The DNI, under authority establishing the post and office (P.L. 108-458), has complete
discretion to create and construct an OIG in his Office, based on provisions he selects from
the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended. In 2006, the director established an

Observations on Oversight of Intelligence
Obstacles to Oversight
Congressional oversight of intelligence meets obstacles that are not usually
present in other areas.53
Secrecy Constraints. The most significant constraint is the high degree and
pervasiveness of secrecy surrounding intelligence policy, information, activities,
operations, resources, and personnel. For Congress, this means that the legislature,
its committees, and its Members are circumscribed in a number of ways: what they
know; who receives the information, how, and in what form and forum; who
provides it; what information can be shared with other Members and panels, how,
and in what detail; and what non-governmental sources can contribute to legislators’
knowledge, to what degree, and in what ways.
The secrecy imperative results in a system that is often closed to outsiders —
not just the general public but also Representatives and Senators who do not have
seats on the select committees on intelligence. The impact of official secrecy is
evident in the restrictions on access to and disclosure of classified information in the
panels’ custody as well as on restraints covering what the select committee members
themselves can discuss outside its confines.54 These restrictions and their demanding
requirements not only slow down or prevent access by non-members, because of an
anticipated lengthy delay in complying with the procedures, but might also harbor a
“chilling effect” for some, because of the strict limitations on disclosure and use of
the information among colleagues outside the Intelligence Committees. As noted
above, moreover, other access controls adopted by the executive set limits on the
Government Accountability Office, Congress’s chief audit and investigative agency.
The impacts and implications of secrecy are extensive and burdensome. The

9/11 Commission summarized the effects this way: “Secrecy stifles oversight,

accountability, and information sharing.”55

52 (...continued)
inspector general post in his office. U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence,
Report on the Progress of the DNI in Implementing the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004,
May 2006. In the meantime, however, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have
raised questions about the IG’s independence, capabilities, jurisdiction, and reporting to
Congress. U.S. Congress, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Intelligencethnd
Authorization Act for 2007, H.Rept. 109-411, 109 Cong., 2 sess.
53 See CRS Report RL32617, A Perspective on Congress’s Oversight Function, by Walter
J. Oleszek.
54 Illustrations of such restrictions can be found in an interview with Representative Jane
Harman, a former member of the House Intelligence Committee: “House Committee to
Probe Ruin of CIA Tapes,” Morning Edition, National Public Radio, January 6, 2008.
55 9/11 Commission, Report, p. 24.

Appeal of Intelligence Oversight. Along with this is the apparently limited
appeal of overseeing intelligence and making intelligence policy, including
authorizing the budget. Congressional efforts here remain largely hidden and may
have only marginal direct effects on Members’ constituencies, districts, or states.56
Overcoming the Obstacles
Objectives and Goals. The impact of these limitations on Congress’s
oversight of intelligence is that it is significantly more difficult than in other fields.
And the usual incentives for Members to serve on certain committees and conduct
oversight appear to be more modest or even non-existent for intelligence.
Steps have been advanced, however, to increase Congress’s capacity to
overcome these hurdles. Prospects along this line include (1) heightening the appeal
of serving on the intelligence panel; (2) enhancing the expertise and knowledge of
Members (both on and off the panels); (3) reinforcing the shared responsibilities
between an Intelligence Committee, on the one hand, and panels with overlapping
memberships, on the other; (4) expanding the contacts and coordination between the
intelligence authorizors and appropriators; (5) changing the relationship between the
two chambers on intelligence matters, through, for instance, a joint committee or
increased contacts between the existing committees; and (6) developing new
connections between Congress and the executive that could lend themselves to more
effective oversight.
The Joint Committee Approach and Alternatives. Growing out of these
goals are a number of recommendations to strengthen oversight of intelligence,
which have arisen since the genesis of the modern intelligence community six
decades ago. Recent ones have come from the 9/11 Commission, which proposed
two distinct alternatives. One was to create a joint committee on intelligence. Yet
over the years, the drafts for a JCI have differed in important respects: membership,
leadership, jurisdiction, authority, staffing, and controls over classified information,
among other matters. Moreover, rationales for a JCI have met with competing
objections and concerns.
A second major option advanced by the 9/11 Commission was to enhance the
powers and status of the Intelligence Committee in each house, along with realigning
committee jurisdiction over intelligence appropriations, with the prospect of merging
authorizing and appropriations in one committee. The Senate — in S.Res. 445 (108th
Congress), approved October 9, 2004 — followed this path, but only part of the way,
when it removed the term limits on serving on its intelligence panel, reduced the
number of members, and created a separate Subcommittee on Intelligence on the
Appropriations Committee. In separate action, leaders on the Senate Intelligence and
Appropriations Committees issued a Memorandum of Agreement in 2006, designed
to improve coordination and transparency between the two panels. In the meantime,
the Senate Intelligence Committee leaders have advanced a proposal to modify the
Appropriations Intelligence Subcommittee. It would have comprehensive
jurisdiction for the intelligence budget and its membership would include Intelligence

56 Ibid., pp. 420-421.

Committee members who are already on Appropriations, the chairman and ranking
minority member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, and the chairman
and vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee as ex officio members. The Senate
Appropriations Committee leaders have opposed this plan. The House has traveled
a different route. It has created a Select Intelligence Oversight Panel on its
Appropriations Committee, to serve as an advisory body, which includes members
of the Intelligence Committee.
Other approaches to change legislative oversight of intelligence have been
proposed. These include several that would affect the executive directly as well as
Congress’s own structure and capabilities: increase the use of congressional support
agencies; clarify and extend independent access for GAO to audit intelligence
community agencies, particularly the CIA; require the CIA to meet the GPRA
planning and reporting obligations, as other IC components must do; increase the
independence of and the coordination among IC inspectors general; improve their
reporting to Congress, where needed; and establish a new inspector general with
jurisdiction over the entire intelligence community as well as statutory IGs in four
prominent Defense Department intelligence agencies.