1998 (1) Spring

Sharing Secrets with Lawmakers: Congress as a User of Intelligence

By L. Britt Snider


Editor™s Note: This article has been condensed from a monograph published in 1997 by the Centerfor the Study of Intelligence. It relies principally on the-record interviews with more than 50 knowledgeable individuals. The author was formerly staff director of the Commission on the Roles and Capabilities of the US Intelligence Community (the Aspin-Brown Commission). He also

served as general counsel for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (1989-95); as that Committee’s minority counsel (1987-89); as Assistant Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (counterintelligence and security, 1977-86); as counsel to the Church Committee (1975-76); and as Counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee (1972-75).

The intelligence services of the United States, like their counterparts in most countries, exist principally to serve the needs of the executive authority. The US intelligence apparatus, however, unlike that of most countries, also makes a large part of its available output to the legislative authority.

It has not always been so. Before the mid-1970s, Congress was given little intelligence, and access to it was limited. The Congressional investigations of US intelligence agencies in 1975-76 by the Church and Pike Committees fundamentally altered this situation. For the first time, voluminous amounts of intelligence information were shared with the investigating committees. When permanent oversight committees were later created in both Houses, the trend toward ever-increasing disclosure continued.

The book length version of Snider’s research can be found in the Books and Monographs section of this site.

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