Gang of Eight (intelligence)

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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 50 U.S.C. § 3093(c)(2).

Under normal conditions, the President of the United States is required by Title 50 U.S.C. § 3091(a)(1) 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 "extraordinary circumstances", when the President thinks "it is essential to limit access" to information about a covert action, 50 U.S.C. § 3093(c)(2) allows the President to limit reporting to the Gang of Eight.

The individuals are sworn to secrecy and there is no vote process.[not verified in body]


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.[1]

U.S. government[edit]

Warrantless electronic surveillance[edit]

The non-partisan Congressional Research Service released a legal analysis on January 18, 2006,[2][3] 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".[4][5]

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:[6]

Popular culture[edit]

The West Wing[edit]

The Gang of Eight appeared in the season three finale of the political drama The West Wing, "Posse Comitatus". 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.

Madam Secretary[edit]

Dr. Henry McCord, head of the CIA's Special Activities Division, is seen briefing the Gang of Eight numerous times in the Fourth Season. The group includes Senator Carlos Morejon, a primary antagonist in the show.

Other movies and television shows[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ President's Memorandum Limiting Executive Agency Disclosures to Congress, October 05, 2001,
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ M20060118 - CRS Statutory Procedures Brief for Congress, January 18, 2006, Congressional Research Service
  4. ^ "Report Questions Legality of Briefings on Surveillance", January 19, 2006, The New York Times
  5. ^ "Congressional Agency Questions Legality of Wiretaps", January 19, 2006, The Washington Post
  6. ^ WALTER PINCUS (2 Mar 2010). "House votes to revise intelligence disclosure rules for president". Washington Post. Retrieved 26 Jan 2017.

External links[edit]