Gang of Eight (intelligence)
The Gang of Eight is a colloquial term for a set of eight leaders within the United States Congress who are briefed on classified intelligence matters by the executive branch. Specifically, the Gang of Eight includes the leaders of each of the two parties from both the Senate and House of Representatives, and the chairs and ranking minority members of both the Senate Committee and House Committee for intelligence as set forth by .
The President of the United States is required by to "ensure that the congressional intelligence committees are kept fully and currently informed of the intelligence activities of the United States, including any significant anticipated intelligence activity as required by [the] title." However, under 50 U.S.C. § 3093(c)(2), the President may elect to report instead to the Gang of Eight under "extraordinary circumstances", when the President thinks "it is essential to limit access" to information about a covert action.
In the spring of 2013, the intelligence "Gang of Eight" was often confused with the immigration "Gang of Eight".
The term "Gang of Eight" gained wide currency in the coverage of the Bush administration's NSA warrantless surveillance controversy, in the context that no members of Congress other than the Gang of Eight were informed of the program, and they were forbidden to disseminate knowledge of the program to other members of Congress. The Bush administration has asserted that the briefings delivered to the Gang of Eight sufficed to provide Congressional oversight of the program and preserve the checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches.
Warrantless electronic surveillance
The non-partisan Congressional Research Service released a legal analysis on January 18, 2006, concluding that the Bush administration's refusal to brief any members of Congress on the warrantless domestic spying program other than the Gang of Eight is "inconsistent with the law".
Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales repeatedly made references to the "Gang of Eight" when being questioned about the warrantless surveillance/ domestic spying while testifying at the Justice Department Oversight hearing held July 24, 2007.
Under the "gang of eight" system, the executive branch of the United States discloses highly sensitive intelligence information to the following positions within the US congress:
- Leadership in the United States House of Representatives:
- Leadership in the United States Senate:
- United States Senate Majority Leader
- United States Senate Minority Leader
- Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
- Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives
- U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
- U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
The West Wing
The Gang of Eight appeared in the Season Three finale of the political drama The West Wing. President Bartlet was staging an assassination of a foreign leader who was discovered to be behind several terrorist attacks, including a failed attack on the Golden Gate Bridge. The Gang of Eight on The West Wing consisted of the Majority and Minority Leaders from both the House and the Senate as well as the Chairman and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. The Gang of Eight on The West Wing differed from the real world's Gang of Eight as the Speaker of the House (portrayed in the fourth and fifth seasons of the show by actor John Goodman) was not a member.
Other Movies and TV Shows
- President's Memorandum Limiting Executive Agency Disclosures to Congress, October 05, 2001, FAS
- Presidential Authority to Conduct Warrantless Electronic Surveillance To Gather Foreign Intelligence Information Archived December 29, 2015, at the Wayback Machine., January 18, 2006, Senator Patrick Leahy
- M20060118 - CRS Statutory Procedures Brief for Congress, January 18, 2006, Congressional Research Service
- Report Questions Legality of Briefings on Surveillance, January 19, 2006, The New York Times
- Congressional Agency Questions Legality of Wiretaps, January 19, 2006, The Washington Post
- WALTER PINCUS (2 Mar 2010). "House votes to revise intelligence disclosure rules for president". Washington Post. Retrieved 26 Jan 2017.