Senate Committee on Intelligence

Chair: Richard Burr

0 Investigative Oversight Hearings

82 Policy/Legislative Hearings

86 Total Hearings

Last updated: Sept. 26, 2020, 12:41 a.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 115th Congress (2017-18), under Chair Richard Burr (R, N.C.), it held 146 total hearings, 117 of them closed. That is the highest number of total hearings for the committee in the period, well above the committee average, and the second-most in that Congress. Much of the increase was due to a large number of nomination hearings and a jump in oversight investigative hearings.

Although the predominance of secret hearings makes it hard to gauge the committee’s true oversight activity, its public investigative oversight hearings jumped remarkably 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.

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)

Current Congress

We are 99% of the way through the 116th Congress

Senate Committee on Intelligence

0 Investigative Oversight Hearings; 0% historical maximum
82 Policy/Legislative Hearings; 78% historical maximum
86 Total Hearings; 71% historical maximum

Committee History

Number of Hearings
Investigative/Oversight Policy/Legislative Total Hearings
111th Congress 0 90 98
112th Congress 0 77 82
113th Congress 0 102 107
114th Congress 0 120 121
115th Congress 4 126 146
116th Congress* 0 82 86
Historical average 0.7 99.5 106.7

* Adjustments have been applied so that committees' grades are not lowered by the constraints on hearings caused by Covid-19 []

Number of Hearings

--- Historical Average

Hearings held by the
Senate Committee on Intelligence

Date Hearing Title Committee Category