I have been studying, writing about, and, at times as a congressional and White House aide, engaging in intelligence oversight for more than forty years.
All the democracies have had to wrestle with this challenge of tolerating secret services within otherwise relatively transparent governments. Democracies pride themselves on privacy and liberty; spies, however, enjoy heavily veiled budgets, and they are involved in the hidden collection of information around the world and the use of covert action against foreign regimes. Sometimes, as examined in this book, they have even turned their dark arts against their very people they were created to protect, as with the so-called COINTELPRO operations carried out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) against civil rights and antiwar activists in the United States during the 1960s and early 1970s. In this sense, democracy and intelligence have been and remain a poor match.
The Snowden affair, along with revelations about torture carried out by intelligence officers in the CIA and America’s military intelligence units, call for a fresh examination of an age-old question: Who, if anyone, within a democratic society is able to protect citizens against the improper user of dark powers that are concealed within the corridors of the government’s spy agencies? Who will watch the spies?
Loch K. Johnson
(Prefața la Spy Watching, Oxford University Press, 2018, la pp. xi-xii)