Surveillance of Spying

February 29, 1956

Report Outline
Public Scrutiny of Interlligence Agencies
Development of U.S. Intelligence System
Effectiveness of Intelligence Operations

Public Scrutiny of Interlligence Agencies

Foreign intelligence activities of the federal government—freed from ordinary administrative and legislative controls because of the large element of secrecy required for their successful operation—are facing intensive scrutiny by Congress and the Executive Branch.

The super-secret Central Intelligence Agency, hitherto largely exempt from public surveillance and congressional review, recently became subject for the first time to periodic checking by an independent presidential board. The board, appointed by President Eisenhower in mid-January and composed of persons from outside the government, will report only to the Chief Executive, and most of its findings are likely to be held in confidence. However, Congress is preparing to take action on proposals designed to strengthen legislative supervision of C.I.A. and other government intelligence services.

Views differ on the need for broader congressional scrutiny of C.I.A. and on the wisdom of creating a special watchdog committee, The Executive Branch has been reluctant to disclose details of the secret operations of C.I.A. for fear that its sensitive work might be compromised, and some members of Congress have held that the agency's activities can be effectively supervised without creating a new committee. On the other hand, many congressmen hold that secret operations, free of the normal checks of a democratic system, are a risky business that invites abuse.

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