Spy Watching: Intelligence Accountability in the United States

ISBN : 9780190682712

Loch K. Johnson
624 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Jan 2018
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All democracies have had to wrestle with the challenge of tolerating hidden spy services within otherwise relatively transparent governments. Democracies pride themselves on privacy and liberty; intelligence organizations, however, enjoy heavily veiled budgets, and they are involved in the clandestine gathering of information around the world, as well as the use of covert action against foreign regimes. Sometimes, they have even turned their dark arts against the very citizens they were established to protect, as with the so-called COINTELPRO operations carried out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) against civil rights and antiwar activists during the 1960s and early 1970s. In this sense, democracy and intelligence have always been a poor match. Yet Americans live in an uncertain and threatening world filled with nuclear warheads, long-range missiles, chemical and biological weapons, aggressive foreign leaders, failing states, and brutal terrorists. Without an intelligence apparatus scanning the globe to alert the United States about these threats, including possible pandemics and environmental catastrophes, this planet would be an even more perilous place. Thus, it becomes necessary for democracies to maintain strong, effective spy services; at the same time, though, to prevent the misuse of secret power, democracies must also take steps to ensure that their intelligence agencies are closely watched by responsible overseers. In Spy Watching, Loch K. Johnson focuses on the travails encountered by the United States as it has tried to maintain effective accountability over its spy services. Spy Watching explores the work of the famous Church Committee, a Senate panel that thoroughly investigated America's espionage organizations in 1975 and established new norms for the supervision of spy activities conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the nation's other sixteen secret services. Johnson explores why partisanship has crept into once-neutral intelligence operations; the effect of the 9/11 attacks on the expansion of spying by the United States, at home and abroad; the controversies related to CIA rendition and torture programs, along with massive data collection at home by the National Security Agency (NSA); and the leaks by Edward Snowden about these NSA dragnet "metadata" operations aimed at American citizens. Johnson views media reporting as a guard against intelligence abuses; and it evaluates the effectiveness of lawmakers in Congress as checks against spy misadventures--important forces in the "shock theory of accountability" presented in these pages. Included in this study are insights into U.S. intelligence drawn from scores of interviews with practitioners, among them several of the nation's Directors of Central Intelligence (DCIs). Above all, Spy Watching seeks to find a sensible balance between the twin imperatives in a democracy of liberty and security.


Preface; List of Figures; Introduction: Democracy and Intelligence; PART I: THE MAGNITUDE OF THE CHALLENGE; Chapter One: Tracking an Elusive Behemoth; Chapter Two: Intelligence Exceptionalism; PART II: THE EVOLUTION OF INTELLIGENCE ACCOUNTABILITY; Chapter Three: Democracy Comes to the Secret Agencies; Chapter Four: The Experiment in Intelligence Accountability Begins; Chapter Five: Spy Watching in an Age of Terror; PART III: THE PATTERNS OF INTELLIGENCE ACCOUNTABILITY; Chapter Six: A Shock Theory of Intelligence Accountability; Chapter Seven: The Media and Intelligence Accountability; Chapter Eight: Ostriches, Cheerleaders, Lemon-Suckers, and Guardians; PART IV: THE PRACTICE OF INTELLIGENCE ACCOUNTABILITY; Chapter Nine: In the Trenches: Collection-and-Analysis and Covert Action; Chapter Ten: In the Wilderness: Coping with Counterintelligence; PART V: THE FUTURE OF INTELLIGENCE ACCOUNTABILITY; Chapter Eleven: Intelligence Accountability and the Nation's Spy Chiefs; Chapter Twelve: The Ongoing Quest for Liberty and Security; Acknowledgements; Abbreviations and Codenames; Appendix A: The U.S. Intelligence Community, 2016; Appendix B: U.S. Intelligence Leadership, 1947-2016; Appendix C: The Intelligence Oversight Act of 1980; Bibliography

About the author: 

Loch K. Johnson is one of America's leading experts on the nation's intelligence organizations. He is the Regents Professor of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia and served as staff director of the Senate Committee on Intelligence, as well as assistant to the chairman of the Aspin-Brown Commission on Intelligence. Johnson is the author of America's Secret Power and The Threat on the Horizon, both published by Oxford University Press.

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