1997 Factbook on Intelligence

Legislative Oversight of Intelligence

The US Congress has had oversight responsibilities 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 US 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. However, the Appropriations Committees, given their constitutional role to appropriate funds for all US Government activities, also exercise some oversight functions. In addition, the CIA interacts closely with other committees, depending on issues and jurisdiction.

The CIA's Office of Congressional Affairs deals directly with oversight issues. SSCI and HPSCI receive all CIA finished intelligence products. Moreover, CIA officials and analysts give more than one thousand substantive briefings a year to members of Congress, congressional committees, and their staffs.