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POLSC313: US Intelligence and National Security

Unit 3: The Role of Congress in US National Security   While the US Constitution specifically gives Congress the power to declare war, raise armies, and ratify treaties, the increasing complexity of international relations and military operations seem to have led to a reduced role for Congress in national security than that which was enjoyed at the time of the nation’s founding. Political agendas and personal ambitions of members also create dissent both within Congress and between the legislative and executive branches, whereas key officials in the executive branch—who serve at the pleasure of the president and can be fired should their performance or policies conflict with those of the administration, members of Congress, particularly the leadership—have no such authority over their subordinates. The worst that a House or Senate leader can do to a dissenting member of their party is to demote them from key committees or withhold party-based funding for re-election campaigns; they cannot fire them in the same manner as the president would do to a member of the executive branch who bucked policy goals and implementation thereof.

Intelligence and national security operations generally fall within the purview of the executive branch; however, Congress has oversight powers over the military, the intelligence agencies, and the State Department, inter alia. Congress also has a veto power of sorts over military deployments via the War Powers Act of 1973 and controls the budgets of each. The judicial branch generally defers to the other branches in the realm of intelligence and national security operations, citing the political questionsdoctrine, except where there are significant personal liberty issues under the US Constitution (i.e., the right to the free exercise of religion by members of the US military) or when the other branches try to exercise judicial authority (i.e., military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay or the Uniform Code of Military Justice). Key positions within each department and agency are subject to consent by the Senate. These powers give Congress some reactive authority but not much proactive authority or direct involvement in policymaking and implementation.

Both the House and the Senate have Select Committees on Intelligence to review matters pertaining to covert and/or classified operations pertaining to national security. The Intelligence Oversight Act of 1980 contains provisions for reporting clandestine activities to the Select Committees for oversight. Congress also controls the purse strings for departments running such operations and has used the strategy of denying or threatening to curtail operational funding as a means of interjecting policy changes. 

Unit 3 Time Advisory
Completing this unit should take you approximately 14 hours.

☐    Subunit 3.1: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 3.2: 4.75 hours

    ☐    Reading: 2.5 hours

    ☐    Web Media: 2.25 hours

☐    Subunit 3.3: 5.25 hours

☐    Unit 3 Activity: 1 hour

Unit3 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:
- assess the powers of Congress in national security, as delineated in the US Constitution;
  - explain the role of Congress in national security policymaking;
  - analyze the effectiveness of the legislative and executive branches as co-equal branches with checks and balances on one another’s powers;
  - identify Congressional committees with legislative oversight over national security policy and operations; and
  - delineate the risks, benefits, and effectiveness of the War Powers Resolution Act of 1973.

3.1 The Historical Role of Congress in Matters of Intelligence and National Security   - Reading: Council on Foreign Relations: Kay King’s “Congress and National Security” Link: Council on Foreign Relations: Kay King’s “Congress and National Security” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Click on “Download Now,” and then select the link titled “Download the Full Text of the Report Here.” Read Dr. King’s report for a discussion on the factors that have influenced the evolution of congressional policymaking.
 
Reading this report should take approximately 2 hours.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Lecture: iTunes U: Pepperdine University: Dr. James Coyle’s “US National Security Permanent Values and Interests” Link: iTunes U: Pepperdine University: Dr. James Coyle’s “US National Security Permanent Values and Interests” (iTunes U)
     
    Instructions: Click on “View in iTunes” for Lecture 3, titled “US National Security Permanent Values and Interests.” Watch Dr. Coyle’s video lecture on US national security.
     
    Watching this lecture and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

3.2 Congressional Oversight: Strengths and Weaknesses   - Reading: Congressional Research Service: Frederick M. Kaiser’s “Congressional Oversight of Intelligence: Current Structure and Alternatives” Link: Congressional Research Service: Frederick M. Kaiser’s “Congressional Oversight of Intelligence: Current Structure and Alternatives” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read Kaiser’s report on congressional oversight of intelligence.
 
Reading this report should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Central Intelligence Agency: James S. Van Wagenen’s “A Review of Congressional Oversight” Link: Central Intelligence Agency: James S. Van Wagenen’s “A Review of Congressional Oversight” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read this article on opponents and proponents of congressional oversight of the US Intelligence Community (IC).
     
    Reading this article should take approximately 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: US Institute of Peace: Robert M. Perito’s “Congress and Parliaments in Security Sector Reform” Link: US Institute of Peace: Robert M. Perito’s “Congress and Parliaments in Security Sector Reform” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read the article on legislative oversight of national security.
     
    Reading this article should take approximately 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: The Public Record: Jeffrey Kaye’s “Thwarting Congressional Oversight via Presidential Signing Statements” Link: The Public Record: Jeffrey Kaye’s “Thwarting Congressional Oversight via Presidential Signing Statements” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read this article about executive power used during the Bush administration to thwart congressional oversight of US intelligence and national security.

    Reading this article should take approximately 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: YouTube: PBS Newshour: “Intelligence Oversight: Is Congress the Problem?” Link: YouTube: PBS Newshour: “Intelligence Oversight: Is Congress the Problem?” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Watch this video on congressional oversight of US intelligence. Optionally, you may read over the transcript. The transcript is linked in the caption of the video.
     
    Watching this video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: iTunes U: American University: Connie Morella, Jim McGovern, David Price, Walter Olescek, and James Thurber’s “Lecture 9: School of Public Affairs 75th Anniversary: Panel on Oversight” Link: iTunes U: American University: Connie Morella, Jim McGovern, David Price, Walter Olescek, and James Thurber’s “Lecture 9: School of Public Affairs 75thAnniversary: Panel on Oversight” (iTunes U)
     
    Instructions: Select “View in iTunes” for “Lecture 9: SPA Affairs 75th Anniversary: Panel on Oversight,” and watch the video in which a panel discusses what is expected of the US government and Congress’s role of oversight.

    Watching this video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

3.3 Congress versus the Unitary Executive in National Security Matters   - Reading: Salon: Glenn Greenwald’s “Obama on Presidential War-Making Powers” Link: Salon: Glenn Greenwald’s “Obama on Presidential War-Making Powers” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read this article, which discusses the war-making
powers of President Obama and his administration.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Princeton University Press: Kenneth R. Mayer’s With the Stroke of a Pen: Executive Orders and Presidential Power: “Chapter 1” Link: Princeton University Press: Kenneth R. Mayer’s With the Stroke of a Pen: Executive Orders and Presidential Power: “Chapter 1” (HTML) (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read Chapter 1, which discusses how presidents have increasingly used executive orders to avoid congressional oversight, particularly in matters dealing with the military or national security. You may read the HTML webpage, or you may download the book as a PDF file.
     
    Reading this chapter should take approximately 1 hour.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: ZNet: Chris Salzberg’s “A Sign of the Times: Signing Statements and Executive Power” Link: ZNet: Chris Salzberg’s “A Sign of the Times: Signing Statements and Executive Power” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this article about signing statements and their implications on executive power.
     
    Reading this article should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Duke University: Jesse H. Choper’s “The Political Question Doctrine: Suggested Criteria” Link: Duke University: Jesse H. Choper’s “The Political Question Doctrine: Suggested Criteria” (HTML or PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read Choper’s article on whether there should be a political question doctrine and, if so, how it should be structured. Pay close attention to his examination of issues involving the political question doctrine that have arisen between the president and Congress.
     
    Reading this article should take approximately 3 hours.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

Unit 3 Activity   - Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “POLSC313 Course Discussion Board” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “POLSC313 Course Discussion Board”
 
Instructions: After you have studied the material in this unit, consider the following question. Post your response to this question on the course discussion board, and review as well as respond to other students’ posts.
 
1. Is Congress properly equipped in the 21st century to engage in proper oversight? Why, or why not? Provide supporting evidence for your response.
 
Completing this activity should take approximately 1 hour.