What do you consider to be the biggest challenge facing Congressional Oversight of the Intelligence Community?
Research has shown that for a long time, the congress lacked adequate information on the components of intelligence. Puyvelde (2013, 140) confirms that for over 25 years, little effort has been put in place by the congress in enhancing intelligence. After critical review of history, Moran (2011, 676) elucidates that there are myriads of intelligence failures across the world.
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For instance, a number of regimes have been overthrown from power. Assassinations and incessant uprisings are also rife in various parts of the globe. According to Puyvelde (2013, 140), the congress failed to institute measures to curb both local and international threats until the late 19th century when aggressive intelligence programs began to take shape.
After the end of major world wars, the congress made a deliberate attempt to protect intelligence programs. Instead of facilitating intelligence operations, it ended up establishing restrictive measures. It is worth to mention that the latter has been a major challenge for Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
The greatest challenge facing congressional oversight is lack of incentives and time to oversee the management of Intelligence affairs. Puyvelde (2013, 141) observes that “senior policymakers and intelligence officers have at crucial times, demonstrated a reluctance to submit intelligence agencies to external oversight.” It is evident that there have been sharp divisions between the judiciary and executive arms of government on issues related to national intelligence.
Moreover, the congress has not provided ample political support to the intelligence community. Actually, the issue of intelligence in the United States has widely been captured in the media through newspapers and blogs (Puyvelde 2013, 142). The media is apparently compelling the government to demonstrate more interest in the management and overall improvement of intelligence matters by providing necessary incentives to the CIA.
Are the authorities and requirements enough to ensure that the Intelligence community operates within their established lanes?
Puyvelde (2013, 145) points out that the Intelligence Community faces numerous challenges due to limited authority and lack of support from the Congress. Moran (2011, 677) is emphatic that if the CIA can be accorded relevant support in terms of resources, it will be in a position to operate within the established boundaries.
Puyvelde (2013, 143) underscores that the congress uses watchdogs as overseers to restrain activities of the CIA. This has compelled the agency to operate without the input of the public. Members of public are crucial since they have reliable information that can be used to enhance intelligence.
Puyvelde (2013, 144) observes that the congress should give the Intelligence Community necessary requirements such as finances and freedom to access crucial sources of information from government archives and records. Puyvelde (2013, 144) argues that “most studies of intelligence accountability in the United States have focused on the institutional system of checks and balances.” Therefore, it is obvious that checks and balances by the congress usually hinder the CIA from operating within the established regulations.
If the congress can be lenient enough and grant authority to the agency, then it will be possible for different interest groups to cooperate with the CIA (Puyvelde 2013, 144). This will not merely improve accountability. It will also assist interest groups to participate in national security and intelligence maters.
Relevant supports such as incentives, political goodwill and adequate funding should be given to the Intelligence Community in order to improve the overall standard of intelligence. The Intelligence Community can only function well if a conducive working environment is put in place.
Moran, Christopher, 2011. “Intelligence and the Media: The press, government secrecy and the ‘Buster’ Crabb Affair.” Intelligence and National Security 26, no. 5 (October): 676-700.
Puyvelde, Damien. 2013. “Intelligence Accountability and the role of public interest groups in the United States.” Intelligence and National Security 28, no. 2 (May): 139-158.