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Who’s Overseeing Whom? The CIA, SSCI, and the Speech or Debate Clause

CRS – Who’s Overseeing Whom? The CIA, SSCI, and the Speech or Debate Clause

“In a Tuesday floor speech, Senator Dianne Feinstein accused the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of monitoring a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) computer network that was used by Committee staff while conducting an investigation into CIA interrogation techniques.  Many facts remain in dispute, and indeed, CIA Director John Brennan denies the allegations outright. While acknowledging the uncertainties associated with this controversy, this dispute provides a framework in which to discuss limitations the Constitution has imposed on executive branch attempts to interfere with legislative activities, including Congress’s authority to conduct oversight and investigations. As Senator Feinstein has pointed out, these allegations—if true— could raise serious concerns under general separation of powers principles, threaten the independence of the legislative branch, and potentially obstruct Congress’s constitutionally based powers of oversight.  More specifically, the allegations would appear to implicate the protections afforded to Members of Congress and congressional staff by the Speech or Debate Clause.”

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