The intelligence agencies are presumably under the oversight of Congress. But for decades, relatively few Congressional staff members were given the top secret/sensitive clearances to review materials necessary to effective oversight.
These staffers were mostly limited to working for members on a few select committees, such as the House and Senate intelligence committees, as well as the leadership offices. Often, staffers with high enough clearance to review classified materials were “detailees” from the very agencies and departments they were meant to help oversee.
That has now changed, thanks to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
At a caucus lunch with Democrats, Sen. Schumer announced that top secret/sensitive clearance will be available for one personal aide per senator, in addition to existing clearances for staff. That means 100 more staffers will be available to assist their bosses in trying to keep the intelligence community in line with the U.S. Constitution.
“Majority Leader Schumer has taken a bold step toward improving oversight of agencies by the entire U.S. Senate,” said Gene Schaerr, general counsel of the Project for Privacy and Surveillance Accountability. “With enhanced oversight, we are hopeful that more senators will get engaged with the question of why the government refuses to answer our repeated filings to discover if it has spied on Members of Congress.”