Cleaning house: CIA headquarters, March 2005
Jason Reed / Courtesy Reuters

Some 40 years have passed since the Church Committee’s sweeping investigation of U.S. intelligence practices, fresh on the heels of the Watergate scandal. And ten years have gone by since the last major reorganization of the country’s spy agencies, enacted in the wake of 9/11. Both efforts led to a host of reforms—among them, the creation of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and the adoption of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, which I helped shepherd through Congress.

New challenges have prompted talk of change once again. The U.S. government’s recently acknowledged drone program, the contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks about the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities, and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s recent report on CIA detention and interrogation practices have fanned public anxieties about government overreach. Surprise developments, meanwhile, have blindsided U.S. officials. The disintegration of Syria, the Boston Marathon bombing, the precipitous rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the systematic hacking of U.S. computer networks—in one way or another, all caught Washington flat-footed. Last November, The Washington Post reported that CIA Director John Brennan

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  • JANE HARMAN is Director, President, and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She was a nine-term U.S. Representative from California and, from 2002 to 2006, the ranking Democrat on the U.S. House Intelligence Committee.
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