As a member of the President’s Review Group on NSA surveillance, I had a rare opportunity last fall to observe and evaluate the various mechanisms our government uses to oversee the activities of our nation’s intelligence agencies. At the structural level, I was impressed with the variety and range of oversight mechanisms in place.
The National Security Agency’s activities, for example, are overseen by the NSA’s Inspector General, the Director of National Intelligence, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Department of Justice, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, and the Senate and House Intelligence Committees. Each of these entities is responsible for reviewing various aspects of the NSA’s operations.
Cumulatively, I found that these oversight mechanisms work reasonably well when it comes to ensuring that the NSA properly implements the authorities it has been given. In those instances in which the NSA overstepped its bounds, these entities were generally quick to respond.
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