The IC’s authority to conduct intelligence activities is governed by numerous laws and regulations. Of primary importance is Executive Order 12333, United States Intelligence Activities. Most recently amended in 2008, the executive order sets strategic goals and defines roles and responsibilities within the IC, while also affirming the Nation’s commitment to protect Americans’ civil liberties and privacy rights in the conduct of intelligence activities.


Executive Order 12333 establishes this balance by prescribing general principles governing intelligence collection, retention and dissemination, and by specifying that intelligence activities concerning U.S. persons may only be conducted in accordance with procedures established by the element or department head and approved by the Attorney General, after consultation with the Director of National Intelligence.

Intelligence Oversight

Intelligence oversight is a mechanism to ensure that the IC conducts intelligence activities in a manner that that achieves the proper balance between the acquisition of essential information and protection of individual interests. The oversight is performed by entities inside and outside of the IC, which allows the IC to account for the lawfulness of its intelligence activities to the American people, to Congress, to the President and to itself. ODNI engages and coordinates with the following entities in advance of actions where appropriate and provides reports or briefings of intelligence activities to the entities. 

The Intelligence Community

ODNI has several offices responsible for oversight functions, to include the Office of General Counsel, the IC Inspector General, and the Office of Civil Liberties, Privacy and Transparency. Each of these offices work to ensure that ODNI operates in a manner that promotes IC-wide positive impact that is in accordance with the Constitution and other laws, regulations, executive orders and directives or policies. Each element has similar offices that assist in oversight for the respective element.

Executive Branch

President's Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB) -- The PIAB is an element within the Executive Office of the President.  The PIAB exists exclusively to provide the President with an independent source of advice on the effectiveness with which the IC is meeting the nation’s intelligence needs and the vigor and insight with which the community plans for the future. The PIAB consists of not more than 16 members selected from distinguished citizens outside the government. The PIAB has access to all information necessary to perform its functions.


The Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) -- The IOB, a standing committee of the PIAB since 1993, consists of not more than four members of the PIAB appointed by the Chairman of the PIAB. The IOB is charged with overseeing the IC’s compliance with the Constitution and all applicable laws, Executive Orders, and Presidential Directives. 


Privacy & Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) -- The PCLOB is an independent agency established by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act, Pub. L. 110-53, signed into law in August 2007.  Composed of four part-time members and a full-time chairman, the Board's responsibilities comprise two basic functions: oversight and advice.  In its oversight role, the Board is authorized to continually review the implementation of executive branch policies, procedures, regulations, and information sharing practices relating to efforts to protect the nation from terrorism, in order to ensure that privacy and civil liberties are protected and to determine whether they are consistent with governing laws, regulations, and policies regarding privacy and civil liberties.  In its advice role, the Board is authorized to review proposed legislation, regulations, and policies (as well as the implementation of new and existing policies and legal authorities), in order to advise the President and executive branch agencies on ensuring that privacy and civil liberties are appropriately considered in their development and implementation. The Board is also directed by statute to, when appropriate, coordinate the activities of federal agency privacy and civil liberties officers on relevant interagency matters.


Office of Management and Budget (OMB) -- OMB is part of the Executive Office of the President. OMB carries out its mission through five critical processes that are essential to the President’s ability to plan and implement his priorities across the Executive Branch: (1) Budget development and execution; (2) Management, including oversight of agency performance, human capital, Federal procurement, financial management, and information technology; (3) Regulatory policy, including coordination and review of all significant Federal regulations by executive agencies (4) Legislative clearance and coordination; (5) Executive Orders and Presidential Memoranda.

Legislative Branch

Pursuant to Section 502 of the National Security Act of 1947, which states that the heads of the IC agencies shall “keep congressional intelligence committees fully and currently information of all intelligence activities of the United States,” ODNI ensures that congressional committees are apprised of the activities of the IC, by providing notice of any significant anticipated intelligence activities and notice of potential intelligence failures.


The Office of Legislative Affairs (OLA) is the principal interface between the ODNI and the Congress. In addition to providing support and legislative strategy to the ODNI senior leadership, OLA serves as a focal point within the Intelligence Community Legislative Affairs cadre for legislative views, which are provided to the Office of Management and Budget as part of its interagency coordination process.


OLA serves as a focal point for the Intelligence Community for the production of the Annual Threat Assessment provided to Congress each year. The Director of National Intelligence traditionally serves as the principal witness, although other IC agencies senior representatives join the witness table. These hearings usually involve open and/or closed sessions before separate intelligence oversight and national security committees; open hearings often are televised. The National Intelligence Council works closely with OLA to coordinate the preparation and execution of these hearings.


In addition, the President’s annual budget request for the National Intelligence Program normally results in additional closed hearings. The Office of the Assistant Director of National Intelligence – Chief Financial Officer works closely with OLA to coordinate the preparation and execution of these hearings.

Judicial Branch

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was established in 1978 when Congress enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).  The Court sits in Washington D.C., and is composed of eleven federal district court judges who are designated by the Chief Justice of the United States.  Each judge serves for a maximum of seven years. By statute, the judges must be drawn from at least seven of the United States judicial circuits, and three of the judges must reside within 20 miles of the District of Columbia. 


Pursuant to FISA, the Court entertains applications submitted by the United States Government for approval of electronic surveillance, physical search, and other investigative actions for foreign intelligence purposes.  Most of the Court’s work is conducted ex parte as required by statute, and due to the need to protect classified national security information. 


Additionally, the FISC assesses sufficiency of IC foreign intelligence procedures and receives compliance reports from the IC concerning violations of FISA.