The Work of a Nation
Legislative Oversight of Intelligence
The U.S. Congress has had oversight responsibility over the CIA since the Agency was established in 1947. However, prior to the mid-1970s, oversight responsibilities resided in the Armed Services Committees of both chambers and were less formal than they are now. At the time, the DCI and his representatives interacted directly with the respective chairmen of the congressional committees, and formal hearings and testimony were rare.
Following allegations of wrongdoing by U.S. intelligence agencies, the Senate established the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) on 19 May 1976. The House of Representatives followed suit on 14 July 1977 by creating the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI). These committees, along with the Armed Services, Foreign Relations, and Foreign Affairs Committees, were charged with authorizing the programs of the intelligence agencies and overseeing their activities.
The 1980 Intelligence Oversight Act established the current oversight structure by making the SSCI and the HPSCI the only two oversight committees for the CIA. However, the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Defense (HAC-D and SAC-D), given their constitutional role to appropriate funds for all U.S. Government activities, also exercise oversight functions. The Select Intelligence Oversight Panel (SIOP) is a joint House subcommittee created in the 110th Congress as a result of the 9/11 Commission recommendations. It is composed of members from the HAC (appropriators) and HPSCI (authorizers) to help coordinate intelligence budget issues to meet IC mission and capability requirements. There is no comparable joint SAC and SSCI subcommittee in the Senate.
The Office of Congressional Affairs (OCA) is the focal point for CIA activities with Congress—guiding and facilitating all CIA interaction with Congress, the development of clear strategies to promote and protect the Agency’s Congressional equities, and CIA’s legal responsibility to keep Congress fully and completely informed of our intelligence activities. In addition, OCA has the primary responsibility for ensuring the CIA workforce is fully prepared for all Congressional engagements.
OCA also leads the drafting, coordination, production, and advocacy for D/CIA proposals for the annual Intelligence Authorization bill packages, and works with other Intelligence Community agencies, ODNI, Office of Management and Budget, and the Congress to facilitate enactment of the D/CIA proposals. Likewise, OCA screens hundreds of bills at various stages of the legislative process, identifying those that might cause problems for CIA and pursuing coordinated efforts within CIA, ODNI, OMB, and Congress to prevent or fix the identified problems. In addition, OCA oversees and has primary responsibility for the provision of timely, coordinated D/CIA responses to about 500 Legislative Referral Memorandums a year from OMB that seek CIA concurrence and/or comments on various legislative proposals, draft testimony, or Administration signing statements. OCA keeps CIA leadership and other elements informed of major legislative developments.