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Democratic Accountability of Intelligence Services

31 December, 2006



Table of Contents

I. Introduction

II. The Challenge of Oversight
The Need for Secrecy Versus the Need for Transparency
The Temptation for Politicians
The Challenges of Intelligence Oversight in New Democracies

III. Executive Oversight: Addressing Politically Sensitive IntelligenceIssues
The Role of the Executive
International Intelligence Cooperation
Safeguards Against Ministerial Abuse of Intelligence Services

IV. Parliamentary Oversight: Inside or Outside the Ring of Secrecy?
The Role of the Parliament
Access to Secret Information

V. Non-Political Oversight: The Role of Courts and Independent Bodies
The Role of the Judiciary
Complaint Systems
Inspectors General and Auditing

VI. Conclusions


While spying is said to be the second oldest profession, intelligence accountability is a recent phenomenon. The major challenges of oversight are the focus of this paper and the three main pillars of oversight are described and analysed: executive oversight, parliamentary oversight and oversight by independent bodies. In this analysis, the concept of oversight is seen as a means of ensuring the accountability of the decisions and actions of security and intelligence agencies.