Teaching Case - Congressional Oversight and Presidential Prerogative:  The 1991 Intelligence Authorization Act

Congressional Oversight and Presidential Prerogative: The 1991 Intelligence Authorization Act


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  • Product Description

    The history of the Central Intelligence Agency, from the time of its origins in the immediate post-World War II period, includes a crucial, ongoing tension. How should clandestine operations, whose effectiveness is based in secrecy, be treated in a democracy? The key, operational question that has followed has involved the extent to which the U.S. Executive Branch of government should share its plans, and the reasons for them, with relevant committees in the Congress. This case is a definitive account of the history of the intelligence oversight process in the United States, focused on an intense re-negotiation of the intelligence consultation ground rules, as ultimately embodied in the Intelligence Authorization Act of 1991, which itself resolved more than four years of negotiations between the White House and the Congress. The case focuses specifically on the so-called Iran-Contra affair, the clandestine Reagan Administration initiative designed to help the anti-communist insurgency in Nicaragua, and the complications and, indeed, resentments, it prompted for members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the committee key to approving intelligence budget authorization and, historically, the committee with which the Executive consulted regarding clandestine operations.

    Learning Objective:
    The case examines the variety of positions advanced by the parties involved as to how, as a matter of statute, to balance the need for secrecy and the need for Congressional oversight, in part as a check on ill-conceived schemes. It can be used as a vehicle for discussion both about the role of intelligence services in a democracy, generally, and as an example of executive-legislative balance and negotiations.

  • Other Details

    Publication Date: January 01, 2001
    Teaching Plan: Available with Educator Access
    HKS Case Number: 1605.0
    Case Author: Kirsten Lundberg
    Pages (incl. exhibits): 28
    Setting: United States
    Language: English
    Funding Source: Central Intelligence Agency
    _year: 2000-2009
    _pages: 25+
    _geography: US & Canada
  • Warranty Information

    /review/1605.0.EducatorCopy.pdf, /teachingplan/1605_2.pdf