Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

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The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was created "pursuant to S.Res. 400, 94th Congress: to oversee and make continuing studies of the intelligence activities and programs of the United States Government, and to submit to the Senate appropriate proposals for legislation and report to the Senate concerning such intelligence activities and programs. In carrying out this purpose, the Select Committee on Intelligence shall make every effort to assure that the appropriate departments and agencies of the United States provide informed and timely intelligence necessary for the executive and legislative branches to make sound decisions affecting the security and vital interests of the Nation. It is further the purpose of this resolution to provide vigilant legislative oversight over the intelligence activities of the United States to assure that such activities are in conformity with the Constitution and laws of the United States." [1]

Members of the
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence,
111th Congress
Democrats: Republicans:


Subcommittee on Oversight of the Terrorist Surveillance Program

Members of the
Subcommittee on Oversight of the Terrorist Surveillance Program,
111th Congress
Democrats: Republicans:

Previous committee membership

110th Congress (2007-2008)

Members of the
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence,
110th Congress
Democrats: Republicans:

109th Congress (2005-2006)

Members of the
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence,
109th Congress
Democrats: Republicans:

Committee activity

110th Congress

Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2008

In late May 2007, the committee passed the FY 2008 Intelligence Authorization bill. Beyond authorizing roughly $48 billion for intelligence collection and analysis spending for the next year, the committee issued a number of particular criticisms of Bush administration intelligence practices.[1] Most significantly, the committee moved to curb the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) detention and interrogation procedures, explaining that "both the Congress and the administration must continue to evaluate whether having a separate C.I.A. detention program that operates under different interrogation rules than those applicable to military and law enforcement officers is necessary, lawful and in the best interests of the United States."[2] Additionally, the committee refused to consider legislation to expand the executive branch's surveillance authority unless the Bush administration supplied the committee with its orders authorizing its wireless eavesdropping program.[3] The committee also included language to amend the practice of informing only the committee chairmen and ranking members about the intelligence community's most secret and sensitive operations. The new language would require that all intelligence committee members be briefed on the "main features" of such activities. Finally, the bill required the president to provide all of the his Daily Briefs on Iraq from the second Clinton administration through the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The committee's vice chairman, Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Mo.), called this provision the "most problematic" in the bill.[4]

The Senate chamber, however, would not consider the FY2008 Intelligence Authorization Act passed by the committee until it received the presidential orders which authorized a warrantless wiretapping program several years prior. The administration had previously refused to supply them for over a year, along with legal opinions on the legality of the program by the Department of Justice, as requested in the committee's report on the bill. The committee made the measure and its report public on May 31, 2007, a first for largely classified intelligence authorization legislation.[5]

Oversight of covert operations

In February 2007 Seymour Hersh reported that the Bush administration had been using a variety of covert operations to undermine Iranian influence in the Middle East. The operations - including the funding of violent, extremist Sunni groups - were not being reported to Congress. Two players in the operations were Elliott Abrams and Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, both of whom were also involved in the 1980s' Iran-Contra scandal, which also involved covert operations unreported to Congress. [6]

In November 2006 the Congressional Research Service wrote a report on the blurring of lines between the CIA and military operations, the latter of which has weaker congressional reporting requirements.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the intelligence committee, has complained that, “The Bush Administration has frequently failed to meet its legal obligation to keep the intelligence committee fully and currently informed. Time and again, the answer has been ‘Trust us.’... It is hard for me to trust the Administration.” [7] On March 8, 2006, the Senate intelligence committee has scheduled a closed hearing on "Defense Department Programs". [8]

109th Congress

The committee had responsibility for confirmation hearings of Gen. Michael V. Hayden for the directorship of the CIA. [9]

Iraq intelligence report

On September 8, 2006, the committee declassified a report which found no evidence that Saddam Hussein had a relationship with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his Al-Qaida associates prior to the U.S. invasion in March 2003. The report attributed much of the misinformation regarding the relationship to information supplied by the Iraqi National Congress, an anti-Saddam exile group funded by the U.S. government. [2] (See [reports 1 and 2)

Politicization of NSA oversight

On July 27, 2006, the National Security Agency provided Chairman of the Senate intelligence committee Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) with a list of talking points meant to be used in defense of controversial warrant-less wiretap programs designed to intercept telephone communications between suspected terrorists inside the United States and their contacts abroad. Many of the statements, including those such as “There is strict oversight in place . . . now including the full congressional intelligence committees,” and “Current law is not agile enough to handle the threat posed by sophisticated international terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda” have been taken as advancing particular policy viewpoints rather than simply providing technical information about the programs. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W. Va.), vice-chairman of the committee, and six other Democratic panel members sent a letter to Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, director of the NSA, voicing their concerns about the impartiality of the talking points. [3]

Committee hearings to examine the intelligence overhaul law

On January 23, 2007, the committee opened a pair of hearings to discuss the implementation procedures of the intelligence overhaul law of 2004. Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) and ranking Republican Christopher Bond (R-Mo.) issued a joint statement announcing the hearings.

Rockefeller stated that he “plans aggressive oversight of President Bush’s detention of enemy combatants, his domestic surveillance programs and other subjects, adding that he is prepared to use his subpoena power to get the documents he needs from the administration.”

Rockefeller also stated that he hopes to restore a “fresh spirit of bipartisanship” to the panel after years of “rancor and political divisions.” He continued, “Bipartisanship is not only a commendable goal, it is essential...It’s for the practicality of it and caring for our mission.” [4]

Contact information

211 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-6475
202 224-1700
Web site

Articles and Resources


  1. Walter Pincus, "Senators Seek Legal Review of CIA Methods," Washington Post, June 1, 2007.
  2. Mark Benjamin, "A senate panel rejects Bush's secret interrogations," Salon, June 1, 2007.
  3. Tim Starks, "Senate Panel Demands to See Documents Before Weighing Surveillance Law Changes," CQ, May 31, 2007.
  4. Walter Pincus, "Senators Seek Legal Review of CIA Methods," Washington Post, June 1, 2007.
  5. Tim Starks, "Senate Panel Report Puts White House on Notice on Surveillance Request" CQ), June 1, 2007.
  6. Seymour Hersh, "The Redirection," The New Yorker, February 25, 2007.
  7. Seymour Hersh, "The Redirection," The New Yorker, February 25, 2007.
  8. Hearings schedule, U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
  9. "GOP cool to CIA nominee," the Everett, WA Daily Herald, (Washington Post and Associated Press), May 8, 2006.

SourceWatch Resources

External articles

External resources

With few exceptions, hearings are closed. However, conducting either a Yahoo! or Google search will find numerous published reports.