Commissions of Inquiry and National Security: Comparative Approaches

Commissions of Inquiry and National Security: Comparative Approaches

Commissions of Inquiry and National Security: Comparative Approaches

Commissions of Inquiry and National Security: Comparative Approaches

Synopsis

A number of high-profile commissions of inquiry have recently been announced or are already underway in a range of countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Additionally, the events of the Bush and Blair administrations' "War on Terror" are expected to yield further controversial commissions of inquiry.

Excerpt

Stuart Farson and Mark Phythian

Recent years have seen the development of the comparative study of security and intelligence. In its early days there was a marked difference internationally in terms of both who studied such matters and the approaches they took. The reason for this split had much to do with the availability of, and access to, information. In the United States (U.S.), hearings in the Senate (Church) and House of Representatives (Pike) in the mid-1970s, largely focusing on the activities of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), led to the establishment of permanent congressional oversight committees. The reports of the Church Committee and the work that would stem from these permanent oversight bodies provided sufficient information for political scientists to develop theories and approaches to enhance and challenge their understanding of U.S. international relations. Similar data and oversight bodies were not then available in other parts of the Englishspeaking world. Thus, in Australia, Britain, and Canada, few political scientists interested themselves in this avenue of study. What did attract writers in these countries was information about past events and certain intelligence failures and scandals. This “Westminster” literature—in its early stages—was thus different from that in the United States in two important respects. Firstly, it tended to be written by historians, journalists, and, to a lesser degree, lawyers and criminologists, and, secondly, it tended to focus internally on domestic security and intelligence issues rather than externally on foreign intelligence operations and agencies. This distinction may be discerned in the initial editorial direction of the two major intelligence journals, which began publication in the mid-1980s. While Intelligence and . . .

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