Chair: Mark Warner
0 Investigative Oversight Hearings
27 Policy/Legislative Hearings
35 Total HearingsLast updated: Sept. 16, 2021, 10:23 p.m.
Created in 1976 following the Church Committee’s report on intelligence agency abuses and mistakes, the Intelligence committee was set up as a bipartisan body to oversee the activities of the CIA, the National Security Agency, and others, including their secret missions. By rule it always has eight members from the majority and seven from the minority, regardless of the overall ratio in the Senate. Also by rule, the committee must include members from other important committees. Uniquely, it usually meets in closed session, twice weekly for about two hours, to hear from various officials in the intelligence community. Its open sessions are generally limited to unclassified testimony on national security threats and confirmation hearings. The committee staff pursues what it calls “daily oversight” of intelligence activities, and it has an “Audit and Oversight” staff that conducts longer-term inquiries. It has no subcommittees.
By its structure, the committee holds a large number of hearings each Congress, but the overwhelming number of them are closed. In the 116th Congress (2019-20), under Chair Richard Burr (R, N.C.), it held 91 total hearings, 85 of them closed. That is a significant drop from the 146 hearings held in the 115th Congress (2017-18), also under the leadership of Chair Burr, but on par with the historical average, especially when the abbreviated schedule due to Covid-19 is taken into consideration.
Although the predominance of secret hearings makes it hard to gauge the committee’s true oversight activity, its public investigative oversight hearings jumped remarkably during in the 115th Congress, to four from none in any of the previous four Congresses. Reason: the committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. The public probe by Chair Burr and ranking member Mark Warner (D, Va.), launched early in 2017, was hailed as a rare bipartisan undertaking in the bitterly divided Capitol. The hearings, many of them highly publicized, included unclassified testimony about Russian intelligence activities here and in Europe and the government’s response, the role of social media in the Russian influence campaign and the responsibilities of the large social media companies in policing activity by foreign agents. The committee held no investigative oversight hearings in the 116th Congress.
Because so many of its hearings are closed, we do not give the committee a grade.
111th Congress: Diane Feinstein (D-CA)
112th Congress: Diane Feinstein (D-CA)
113th Congress: Diane Feinstein (D-CA)
114th Congress: Richard Burr (R-NC)
115th Congress: Richard Burr (R-NC)
116th Congress: Richard Burr (R-NC)
117th Congress: Mark Warner (D-VA)
We are 39% of the way through the 117th Congress
Senate Committee on Intelligence0 Investigative Oversight Hearings; 0% historical maximum
Number of Hearings
* Adjustments have been applied so that committees' grades are not lowered by the constraints on hearings caused by Covid-19 [oversight-index.thelugarcenter.org/covid-19-statement]