The National History Center of the American Historical Association held a Congressional Briefing on Oversight of Intelligence Activities on Monday, June 9, 2014. The program was filmed by C-SPAN and is now available from C-SPAN’s Video Library at Congressional Oversight on Intelligence Activities-C-Span.
The briefing was conducted by Laura Donohue, director of Georgetown University’s Center on National Security, and Mark Lowenthal, former assistant director of Central Intelligence for analysis and production, and current adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University. James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association and chairman of the board of the National History Center, chaired the session.
Laura Donohue provided an overview of the growth of the intelligence community following the passage of the National Security Act in 1947, the subsequent absence of congressional oversight of its activities, and the revelations in the early 1970s of domestic surveillance and other abuses by the CIA, the FBI, and other intelligence-gathering agencies.
Mark Lowenthal offered a personal perspective on the subject, derived from years spent in the intelligence arena. He explained how the institutional structures put in place in response to the scandal actually operate.
While Lowenthal argued that the system of congressional oversight based on legislative control of the budget works fairly well, Donohue disagreed. Advances in computer technology in recent decades, she said, undermine the controls created in the reforms of the 1970s and 80s.