Amy Zegart Discusses "Eyes on Spies"

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - 15:30

More than a decade after 9/11, the least reformed part of the US intelligence system is not the CIA or the FBI but Congress. This book examines why. Headlines have focused on the extent to which Bush administration officials withheld information from Congress about interrogations, wiretapping, and other controversial intelligence programs. But executive branch secrecy is not the entire story. In Eyes on Spies, Amy Zegart finds that many of Congress's oversight troubles lie with Congress -- and two institutional deficiencies in particular: limited expertise and weak budgetary power over the intelligence community. This is no accident. In both areas, electoral incentives and turf protection have led Congress to tie its own hands and block oversight reforms, even when the problems are known and the stakes are high. Examining more than 10,000 hearings over thirty years, Zegart finds that poor intelligence oversight crosses party lines, presidential administrations, individual congressional leaders, and eras. She concludes that the U.S. intelligence oversight system is well designed to serve the reelection interests of individual legislators and protect congressional committee power but poorly designed to serve the national interest.

Biography: Amy Zegart is a Senior Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution. She is also a faculty affiliate at Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation and a Professor of Political Economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business (by courtesy), where she co-teaches a course on managing political risk with Condoleezza Rice. Previously, she was a Professor of Public Policy at UCLA's Luskin School of Public Affairs, worked at McKinsey & Company, and served on the NSC staff. National Journal featured Zegart as one of the ten most influential experts in intelligence reform. Her academic writing includes two award-winning books: Spying Blind (Princeton University Press, 2007), which examines intelligence adaptation failures before 9/11; and Flawed by Design (Stanford University Press, 1999), which chronicles the evolution of America's national security architecture. She is currently working on a popular book about intelligence in the post-9/11 world. Zegart writes a regular intelligence column at and has published pieces in the Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times. A former Fulbright Scholar, she received an A.B. in East Asian Studies from Harvard University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from Stanford University.