This dissertation investigates how intelligence activities, largely opaque from the public view, are held accountable in a democracy. Much of regulation and what is considered good governance is the result of strong, transparent regulatory structures, the activities of interest groups, openness to the media, and to the public. National security and intelligence matters, by necessity, do not fit neatly within these expectations of transparency. This dissertation explores how the three branches of government maintain control over the intelligence agencies, describes the mechanisms that have been developed to assure accountability, and explains what causes them to change over time.
The institutional development of oversight mechanisms described above contributes to an original theoretical framework of accountability that disaggregates the nebulous concept of accountability into two sets of characteristics that can help understand the concept of accountability on a more granular and, eventually, operational, level. This project divides "accountability" into two sets of components: those that correspond to external accountability--through mechanisms external to the supervised agency--and those that relate to internal accountability--incorporating internal control mechanisms, institutional culture, and organizational standard operating procedures. The objective of this disaggregation of accountability within the context of intelligence is to understand how to assess the oversight mechanisms for both weaknesses and strengths when it comes to their oversight responsibility over the intelligence function. Specifically this approach facilitates understanding how responsibilities for oversight and control over intelligence activities vary across government institutions.
Beyond contributing a unique theoretical framework to the academic assessment of accountability and intelligence, this project contributes to the study of intelligence oversight in the breadth of its operational analysis. While many studies focus on one branch of government, usually Congress, to understand how intelligence is supervised, this study incorporates the oversight mechanisms from all three branches of government. The purpose of this expansive approach is to understand how the mechanisms interact in practice, and thus to understand how they may be developed to meet the needs of an emerging threat environment and thus an adaptive intelligence community.