Get access

The Contemporary Presidency: Presidents, Lawmakers, and Spies: Intelligence Accountability in the United States


Loch K. Johnson is Regents Professor of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia. He serves as editor of the international journal Intelligence and National Security, and his most recent book is Bombs, Bugs, Drugs, and Thugs: Intelligence and America's Quest for Security.


Since the end of the Second World War, intelligence accountability (“oversight”) in the United States has gone through five major phases: an Era of Trust (1947-74); an Era of Uneasy Partnership (1975-1986); an Era of Distrust (1987-1991); an Era of Partisan Advocacy (1992-2001); and an Era of Ambivalence (2002- ). The major obstacles hindering effective oversight have been the motivation of individual lawmakers and the willingness of the executive branch to share information with overseers on Capitol Hill. Overall, intelligence oversight has been a story of spotty efforts by lawmakers to carry out these duties on a regular basis, relying instead on ad hoc responses to scandals and major intelligence failures after they arise.

Get access to the full text of this article