Intelligence Authorization Act

Intelligence Authorization Act

The United States Central Intelligence Agency’s Intelligence Authorization Act was implemented in order to enforce an article of the Constitution which has not been followed since Washington’s presidency. [Holt, Pat M. Secret Intelligence and Public Policy, (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1995) p.226] The American Constitution states, in Article 1, Section 9, that “a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.” [Holt, p. 226] The act was passed along with the Intelligence Oversight Act of 1980, which allowed Congress and members of the agency to be included in important decisions and operations carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency. [Holt, p. 224] The Intelligence Authorization Act was also an attempt to limit the authority and secrecy within the Central Intelligence Agency regarding foreign and domestic affairs.

=Provisions of the Act=

The 1991 Act states that all secret operations carried out by the Agency must be approved by the President of the United States. In turn, all parties involved must be recorded and made public to Congress. [Daugherty, p.65] Therefore, the Intelligence Authorization Act also publicized the president’s involvement in both foreign affairs and special actions within the CIA. [Daugherty, p.65] With the passing of the Intelligence Authorization Act, the agency is required to submit a report on budgetary spending within to the CIA to Congress. [Holt, p.226]

Intelligence Authorization Act of fiscal year 1993 called for a revision of the structure of the Agency. The National Intelligence Council was developed so that the DCI could have overall authority on what was suggested in the reports given to Congress. [Holt, p.226] The seats in Council were filled with members of the community who held senior positions with budgetary analysis backgrounds. [Holt, p.226] The 1993 revision also cemented the DCI’s position regarding international affairs within the community as well as the United States’ foreign policies. The United States Secretary of Defense must consult the DCI before hiring new members of intelligence agencies. [Holt, p.226] The Intelligence Authorization Act of fiscal year 1994, passed on December 3, 1993, forced the documentation of unclassified operations. These would be submitted by the head of central intelligence, the Director of Central Intelligence. [Holt, p.225] Reports on counter terrorist actions, as well as gaps within the agency must be submitted to Congress. [Holt, p.225]

Attempts have been made to revise the Act in order to make the agency’s budget spending available to the American public. [Holt, p. 226] Congress has rejected this revision since 1993. There are a number of reasons behind the rejection. Government officials have assumed that because the amount of money would be unexplainable without including a total report on CIA actions, the public would continue to ask for more information. [Holt, p.226] Congress has also suggested that patterns could be made with the analysis of yearly reports, which would allow anyone with access to discover details of secret operations within the agency. [Holt, p.226] The simplest explanation is that after reviewing the budget reports, citizens would realize how much money is going into the agency and would protest in order to lower budgetary allowances. [Holt, p.226]


The Act, first passed in 1991, it has been suggested, was an indirect result of the scandals that were present during the Nixon Administration as well as abuses during the Reagan Administration. [Boren, David L. “The Winds of Change at the CIA,” The Yale Law Journal 101:4 (1992) p. 856; Daugherty, William J. “Approval and Review of Covert Action Programs Since Reagan,” International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, 17:1 (2004)p.66] Following Richard Nixon’s impeachment, Congress reacted by passing a number of bills to strengthen their authority regarding domestic and foreign operations within the CIA.

Following the impeachment of Nixon, the American Congress grew increasingly skeptical of the secret dealings of the President. [Johnson, Loch K. Legislative Reform of Intelligence Policy, polity 17:3 (Spring 1985) p. 552] While expanding the power of Congress, the Act also supported the
Hughes-Ryan Amendment which prevented the President from denying his involvement in secret operations, in this case, those of the Central Intelligence Agency. [Daugherty, p.63] This revision was most important during the Era of Skepticism in which Congress was most interested in the president’s actions due to Nixon’s Watergate scandal. [Johnson, p.561]

The proceeding revisions have resulted in greater authority of the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI). [Holt, p. 226] Ultimate authority lies in the hands of Congress and can be displayed using two main actions. Much of the funding provided by Congress must be spent and publicized by the end of the fiscal year. [ Lowenthal, Mark M. Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy (2nd Ed.) (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 2003) p. 158] This prevents the CIA from becoming involved in overly expensive operations. Congress is also the main decision maker regarding covert actions and can reject the funding of operations supported by the CIA, such as their attempt to overthrow the Nicaraguan government in 1982. [Lowenthal, p. 158; Johnson, p. 567]


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