While the need to increase accountability of the security services has become increasingly
apparent, to date there has been little discussion on the mechanics of the current oversight model;
there have been no substantial changes in the functioning of the established bodies.
This paper takes a critical stance towards the existing model of democratic review and control,
which performs parliamentary oversight through three specialized parliamentary committees and
a newly created hybrid body for civilian supervision.
The report identifies deficiencies in the legal setup for parliamentary oversight, unclear
mandates, insufficient access to expertise, a paucity of actual results, politicization of the oversight,
and other issues. These issues are all evidence of – and amplified by – deficient political will to
ensure effective parliamentary oversight over intelligence activities.
Moreover, the paper takes into consideration the theoretical and practical limitations of
parliamentary oversight that have already been identified within the EU and on a wider level.
Furthermore, the poor design of the Council for Civilian Supervision renders it incapable of
performing its anemic designated role, let alone any more substantial oversight. The numerous
obstacles to provide even the basic conditions for this body to become functional demonstrate a
lack of political will to enable effective civilian supervision.
This paper’s particular contribution, in addition to documenting the deficiencies of the
existing oversight system, is to propose a new model of democratic oversight, involving both
parliamentary and external expert oversight. The parliamentary element would require passing a
special law to invest a single committee with clear competences, powers, and tools to perform this
role comprehensively. In addition, we advocate establishing a non-parliamentary, independent
specialized oversight body with strong popular legitimacy (bolstered through transparency in its
construction and operation), powers, and resources. These new bodies would replace the existing
The document is available for download here.