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Eyes on Spies: Congress and the United States Intelligence Community (Hoover Inst Press Publication) Hardcover – September 1, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0817912840 ISBN-10: 0817912843 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Hoover Inst Press Publication (Book 603)
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Hoover Institution Press; 1st edition (September 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0817912843
  • ISBN-13: 978-0817912840
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #424,829 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

The September 11 terrorist attacks sparked major efforts to transform executive branch intelligence agencies. Although Congress has been instrumental in many of these post-9/11 executive branch reforms, it has been largely unable to reform itself. In 2004, the 9/11 Commission called congressional oversight "dysfunctional" and warned that fixing oversight weaknesses would be both essential to American national security and exceedingly difficult to achieve. Why have these deficiencies persisted for so long, despite the clarion call for change after 9/11 and the unprecedented importance of intelligence in today's environment?
   
In Eyes on Spies, Amy Zegart argues that many of Congress's biggest oversight problems lie with Congress itself. Although acknowledging that intelligence policy making has undoubtedly become more partisan and rancorous in recent years, and that individual personalities matter, she shows that the root causes of dysfunctional intelligence oversight cross party lines, presidential administrations, individual congressional leaders, and eras. The author first attempts to define what good oversight looks like—and concludes that, however one defines good oversight, Congress has not been doing it in intelligence for a very long time. She examines existing research in both political science and intelligence studies and finds that both literatures have insights and limitations when it comes to understanding enduring intelligence oversight weaknesses. Taken together, however, both literatures provide essential elements for understanding why intelligence oversight has remained so problematic for so long. Zegart also compares oversight activities of intelligence to other policy areas and reveals that intelligence oversight is always an uphill battle because the issue is always a political loser. In looking specifically at what's wrong, she finds two crucial institutional deficiencies: limited expertise and weak, fragmented budgetary authority.

The author concludes by suggesting policy implications for the future of intelligence oversight-and the picture is not encouraging. The sources of oversight dysfunction, she explains, lie with electoral incentives and institutional prerogatives, and these are not about to disappear. As long as all members of Congress protect congressional committee prerogatives and engage in every-man-for-himself calculations of political self-interest, the current inadequacies in intelligence oversight are unlikely to improve.
 

From the Back Cover

CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT OF INTELLIGENCE—DESTINED TO DISAPPOINT

In the twenty-first century, intelligence has eclipsed military firepower as the nation's most important line of defense. But intelligence agencies cannot go it alone. Legislative oversight, done well, ensures that the intelligence community gets the resources it needs and deploys those resources to maximum effect. In Eyes on Spies, Amy Zegart examines the weaknesses of US intelligence oversight and why those deficiencies have persisted, despite the unprecedented importance of intelligence in today's environment. She argues that many of the biggest oversight problems lie with Congress—the institution, not the parties or personalities—showing how Congress has collectively and persistently tied its own hands in overseeing intelligence.

Zegart also identifies two key institutional weaknesses: one, the rules, procedures, and practices that have hindered the development of legislative expertise in intelligence and, two, committee jurisdictions and policies that have fragmented Congress's budgetary power over executive branch intelligence agencies. She reveals how electoral incentives on the outside and the zero-sum nature of committee power on the inside provide powerful reasons for Congress to continue hobbling its own oversight capabilities.


More About the Author

I grew up in Louisville Kentucky, and have been a political junkie all my life. I spent my childhood tracking election night tallies and writing my Congressman. When I was 13, I saw Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping on television wearing a Texas cowboy hat during his historic trip to the United States. I was instantly enthralled. My mother, an antique dealer who can find anyone and anything, tracked down a local Taiwanese graduate student and convinced her to teach me Mandarin after school. I continued studying Chinese at Andover, majored in East Asian Studies at Harvard, lived in Beijing and Taiwan, and after graduating from college won a Fulbright Scholarship to study the 1989 Chinese democracy movement and Tiananmen tragedy.

When I left China, I decided to return to American politics. I got my Ph.D. in political science from Stanford, where I became fascinated by why good organizations do dumb things ' particularly in U.S. foreign policy. Intelligence agencies proved as opaque and interesting as Chinese politics; I've been hooked on researching the CIA ever since.

My professional career has included spending four years at McKinsey & Company (it turns out private sector firms also have plenty of organizational deficiencies), serving on the Clinton Administration's National Security Council staff and as a foreign policy advisor to the Bush 2000 presidential campaign. For the past eight years, I have been a public policy professor at UCLA, where I teach courses on U.S. foreign policy and public management to undergraduates and MPP students. I have written two books and a number of academic articles about the design problems of U.S. national security agencies, have provided training to various government agencies'including the Marine Corps and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence'and serve on the Los Angeles Homeland Security Advisory Council.

When I am not digging through declassified documents, I am a minivan-driving soccer mom. My three kids, husband, and I live in chaos in Los Angeles, California.

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By MiG on March 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A relatively short narrative on the authorities and challenges of congressional intelligence oversight committees. Ms. Zegart accurately explains the limited political benefits to congressmen who accept this patriotic duty of balancing civil liberties national security. The book could have paid more attention to the influence, motives, and expertise of the congressional staffers.
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