New CRS Report Clearly Documents Differences in Congressional and Presidential Access to Intelligence Data

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on December 15, 2005

Press release: Senator Feinstein Releases Nonpartisan CRS Report that Concludes Congress Did Not Have Access to Full Scope of Prewar Intelligence.
CRS Report, Congress as a Consumer of Intelligence Information, December 14, 2005:

  • Limitations on Congressional Access to Certain National Intelligence – By virtue of his constitutional role as commander-and-in-chief and head of the executive branch, the President has access to all national intelligence collected, analyzed and produced by the Intelligence Community. The President’s position also affords him the authority – which, at certain times, has been aggressively asserted – to restrict the flow of intelligence information to Congress and its two intelligence committees, which are charged with providing legislative oversight of the Intelligence Community. As a result, the President, and a small number of presidentially-designated Cabinet-level officials, including the Vice President – in contrast to Members of Congress – have access to a far greater overall volume of intelligence and to more sensitive intelligence information, including information regarding intelligence sources and methods. They, unlike Members of Congress, also have the authority to more extensively task the Intelligence Community, and its extensive cadre of analysts, for follow-up information. As a result, the President and his most senior advisors arguably are better positioned to assess the quality of the Community’s intelligence more accurately than is Congress. In addition to their greater access to intelligence, the President and his senior advisors also are better equipped than is Congress to assess intelligence information by virtue of the primacy of their roles in formulating U.S. foreign policy…”
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