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Legislative Oversight of Intelligence

The U.S. Congress has maintained oversight responsibility over 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 to date. Then, 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 as well as the 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 SSCI and HPSCI the only two oversight committees for the CIA. The Appropriations committees, given their constitutional role to appropriate funds for all U.S. Government activities, also exercise some oversight functions. In addition, the CIA interacts closely with other committees, depending on issues and jurisdiction.

The Office of Congressional Affairs in CIA deals directly with oversight issues. SSCI and HPSCI receive over 2,200 CIA finished intelligence products annually. Moreover, CIA officials and analysts provide more than 1,200 substantive briefings a year to members of Congress, congressional committees, and their staffs. In addition, the Office of Congressional Affairs provides annually an average of 150 notifications to our oversight committees; responds to approximately 275 Committee Directed Actions, including preparation of Annual Reports; and prepares responses to nearly 500 oral and written inquiries. With input from other agencies in the Intelligence Community (IC), the Office of Congressional Affairs prepares the annual draft of the Intelligence Authorization Act; monitors all new legislation introduced to determine the potential impact on the Intelligence Community and its activities; and seeks legislative provisions needed by the CIA and the IC (with concurrence of the Administration). A review of the Congressional Record and other sources for Congressional legislative activities of interest to CIA is conducted daily.