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4 Journal of National Security Law & Policy 247 (2010)


Whether related to attempted assassinations, unauthorized interrogations, or other intelligence failures, the Inspector General at the Central Intelligence Agency is supposed to conduct audits and internal investigations into potential wrongdoing at an organization that operates in the shadows. From 1947 until 1990, the IG served at the discretion of the Director of the CIA. Congress, after uncovering the CIA’s improper role in Iran-contra, created a statutory IG. A new IG, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, was granted the power to initiate investigations on his own and was required to make reports to the oversight committees on problems within the Agency and on disputes between the IG and the Director. Through a more independent IG, Congress sought more effective oversight of Agency activities as well as greater access to the CIA’s inner dealings. This Article, part of a broader project that analyzes internal checks on the intelligence community, reviews the IG’s statutory structure, compares the performance of the office on several investigations before 1990 to its performance since then, and discusses the backgrounds and experiences of a handful of officers who have served as the CIA’s watchdog. We question whether the changes in the IG’s structure have really improved that office’s ability to keep the CIA on the right side of the law. Institutional lapses have gone uncorrected. Individual responsibility has not been assigned for operational and strategic failures. And, in many cases, journalists have scooped the IG.