meant that the executive had abused its powers, indeed had used the CIA to bypass Congress's constitutionally vested powers. Congress therefore established two select committees, one in the House and the other in the Senate, to oversee the activities of the intelligence agencies as directed by the White House. The House Committee had, under the provisions of the United States Constitution, the power of the purse string; the Senate Committee had the powers of advice and consent; neither committee, however, directed intelligence policy, even if both had some control over its shape. The intelligence agencies remained under executive control, but they and, through them, the president had to submit to congressional scrutiny.
Since the 1970s, the oversight mechanisms have remained essentially unchanged, but a lively debate continues over several aspects of intelligence policy, ranging, from open government at home to the particular merits of overseas operations such as the Iran-Contra affair, a clandestine attempt to sell weapons illegally to Iran's fundamentalist government and to divert the profits from the Middle East to Central America with the object of overthrowing, without congressional approval, the left-wing government of Nicaragua. In response to the furor over Iran-Contra, the Reagan and Bush administrations began to bypass the CIA and to use the NSC to direct intelligence as a means of avoiding what they judged was overintrusive congressional oversight.
Intelligence policy in countries around the world is executive driven, as it is in the United States. Apart from exceptional cases like Nigeria's State Security Service, which answers to a military dictatorship, the instruments of intelligence policy are civilian dominated. The British Joint Intelligence Committee consists of the intelligence chiefs of the three services or their deputies. It was chaired by a Foreign Office official until 1983 and thereafter by a civilian appointed by the prime minister. In the Soviet Union the GRU (Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravlenic/Soviet military intelligence agency) was an influential agency but firmly subordinate to the civilian authorities, and there has been no change of emphasis in present-day Russia. As in the case of the CIA, covert action and analysis in nations other than the United States tend to be combined within the same organizations. The Australian Secret Intelligence Organization is one case in point. Wartime Britain had a separate covert action agency, the Special Operations Executive, but in 1946 its operations were taken over by the Secret Intelligence Service ( SIS or MI6). In the Soviet Union, the KGB undertook covert operations as well as intelligence work, though intelligence analysis tended to be left to its political masters, in contrast to American practice, whereby the DCI (director of Central Intelligence) supplies the president with intelligence "estimates."
In most countries, it has been intelligence policy to identify a "main enemy." For the KGB and GRU, it was the United States. For MI6 (foreign Intelligence) and MI5 (counterintelligence) in Cold War Britain, it was the Soviet Union. For several Middle Eastern nations, it is Israel. But for Israel's MOSSAD, there are several enemies to watch, and for China's intelligence community, there are threats from Russia as well as from the United States, Japan, and Britain. This diversification of target is becoming more widespread because of the end of the Cold War. For example, as relations with Russia improved, MI5 went in search of a new enemy. It took over responsibility for countering the threat posed by the Irish Republican Army, then upon the IRA cease-fire in 1994 sought to become responsible for the war against drugs.
The United States is by no means unique in having a policy on legislative oversight of the intelligence community. The Australians, Canadians, and Scandinavians all have provisions of that kind. But this is one area in which several countries, Russia and Britain included, lag behind. In Russia, totalitarianism's lingering traces are to be discerned. In Britain, the lack of oversight is excused on the ground that the chief executive in charge of intelligence, the prime minister, is a member of parliament and already accountable to it.
Ameringer, Charles D., 1990. U.S. Foreign Intelligence: The Secret Side of American History. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.
Andrew, Christopher, 1985. Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community. London: Heinemann.
Andrew, Christopher, and Oleg Gordievsky, 1990. KGB: The Inside Story of Its Foreign Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev. London: Hodder & Stoughton.
Blaufarb, Douglas S., 1977. The Counterinsurgency Era: U.S. Doctrine and Performance, 1950 to the Present. New York: Free Press.
Eftimiades, Nicholas, 1994. Chinese Intelligence Operations. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press.
Granatstein. J. L., and David Stafford, 1990. Spy Wars: Espionage and Canada from Gouzenko to Glasnost. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart.
Jeffreys-Jones, Rhodri, 1989. The CIA and American Democracy. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Ransom, Harry H., 1984. "Secret Intelligence in the United States, 1947-1982: The CIA's Search for Legitimacy." In Christopher M. Andrew and David Dilks, eds., The Missing Dimension: Governments and Intelligence Communities in the Twentieth Century. London: Macmillan, 199-226.
Richelson, Jeffrey T, 1985. The Ties That Bind: Intelligence Cooperation Between the UKUSA Countries-the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Boston: Allen & Unwin.
Smist, Frank J., 1990. Congress Oversees the United States Intelligence Community, 1947-1989. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.