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President of the United States (Executive Command and Control of Intelligence Agencies)

President of the United States (Executive Command and Control of Intelligence Agencies)


As commander in chief, the President of the United States oversees not only all U.S. military forces, but U.S. national security as a whole. In this capacity, the President exercises executive command and control of intelligence agencies, and issues executive orders and presidential directives that shape national security policy. The nation's 14 largest intelligence agencies belong to the Intelligence Community, whose leader, the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), reports directly to the President. Executive oversight of intelligence also emanates through the National Security Council (NSC) and the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB). The President in turn presents intelligence budgets to the U.S. Congress, which exercises checks and balances on executive power.

Architect of National Security

The modern age of national security began in 1947, with the passage of the National Security Act, which reorganized the Department of Defense (DOD) and established the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and NSC. Prior to that time, the President had always exercised control over the armed forces as commander in chief, but now he also supervised a nascent security and intelligence apparatus destined to grow considerably over the years.

The modern President articulates much of his role as director of national security policy through executive orders and, more recently, presidential directives. Executive orders, which originated under the administration of President Theodore Roosevelt and grew considerably in number after World War II, are theoretically subject to congressional override, but in practice amount to executive edicts. Important executive orders from the 1970s and onward have addressed issues such as the organization of the Intelligence Community and the handling of classified documents.

Whereas executive orders are open to the public, presidential directives are classified, and knowledge of their content only emerges, if at all, after the fact. These directives have guided security and intelligence policy since the administration of President John F. Kennedy, and each administration has sought to place its own stamp on them by giving them specific titles as a class. For example, they were known as national security directives under George H. W. Bush, presidential decision directives under William J. Clinton, and national security presidential directives under George W. Bush.

In 1986, Congress called on presidents to issue an annual National Security Strategy (NSS), a document outlining the blueprint for national security. Prior to the 2002 NSS of George W. Bush, these usually did little more than simply restate policies then in effect. The Bush NSS, on the other hand, outlined an explicit framework for U.S. actions to be taken in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The Advisors

In directing intelligence policy, the President relies on Cabinet-level advisors whose departments have a role in national security. Most notable among these are the secretaries of State, Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, and the Treasury, as well as the Attorney General. Other Cabinet officials, including the secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, and Transportation, also support some national-security functions, and may be called upon for advice relating to their specific areas.

The role of the Vice-President as advisor varies as a function of his relationship with the President. Kennedy, for instance, worked little with Lyndon B. Johnson, whose inclusion on the winning 1960 ticket had resulted from a marriage of convenience designed to attract conservative Southern Democrats. On the other hand, George W. Bush has relied heavily on Vice-President Dick Cheney, who served in the administration of his father.

The NSC. The Vice President is, along with the secretaries of State and Defense, a statutory member of the NSC, as is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the DCI. The chairman of the NSC is the President himself. Intended to serve as the principal advisory board on matters of national security and foreign policy, the NSC has in practice functioned to a level of importance determined by the chief executive.

In general, Democratic presidents have tended to take an ad hoc approach to the NSC, while Republicans, starting with Dwight D. Eisenhower, have relied more heavily on the NSC, or at least on the National Security Advisor, who played an important role in the administrations of Richard M. Nixon, George W. Bush, and others. The role of the National Security Advisor, officially titled the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, is not mentioned in the National Security Act, and emerged only during the Kennedy administration.

In addition to the four statutory members, the two statutory advisors on military and intelligence affairs, and the National Security Advisor, the Secretary of the Treasury is a regular attendee at NSC meetings. The Chief of Staff to the President, Counsel to the President, and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy are invited to attend any NSC meeting, while the Attorney General and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) are invited to attend those meetings that pertain to their responsibilities. The directors of other executive departments and agencies, as well as other senior officials, are called to attend when appropriate. Under the George W. Bush administration, the Director (later Secretary) of Homeland Security has been a regular participant in NSC meetings.

PFIAB. Established by President Eisenhower in 1956, PFIAB is an independent advisory board within the Executive Office of the President. It consists of 16 uncompensated members, selected by the President from outside the ranks of government. PFIAB reviews the activities and performance of all agencies involved in intelligence activities, and advises the President on its assessments of their performance. It also provides the President with input on the objectives, conduct, and coordination of activities by members of the Intelligence Community.

Under the aegis of the PFIAB is the three-member Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB), established by President Gerald Ford in 1976. The IOB is responsible for oversight regarding the legality and propriety of intelligence activities, particularlyaccording to its charterthose "intelligence activities that the IOB believes may be unlawful or contrary to executive order or presidential directive." Originally an independent body, the IOB became a standing committee of the PFIAB in 1997.

The Intelligence Community, Budgeting, and Congress

In addition to leading the CIA, DCI serves as the President's principal advisor on intelligence matters. He also leads the Intelligence Community, which, along with CIA, includes 13 other agencies within the departments of Defense, State, Energy, Justice, the Treasury, and Homeland Security. Among the members of the Intelligence Community are the Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Security Agency, and Defense Intelligence Agency.

DCI reports to the President both directly and (depending on the operational structure of the administration in question) through the National Security Advisor. As head of the Intelligence Community, DCI presents the President with the annual Intelligence Community budget, known as the National Foreign Intelligence Program (NFIP).

In preparing the budget for intelligence and national security activities in the coming fiscal year, the President also relies on the Secretary of Defense. The latter presents the President with two budgets: the Joint Military Intelligence Program (JMIP) for military intelligence, and Tactical Intelligence and Related Areas (TIARA) for specific tactical intelligence requirements of the military services.

Using the NFIP, JMIP, and TIARA budgets, the President proceeds to establish an overall DOD intelligence budget with the help of the National Security Advisor and the OMB. He then presents these requests to Congress, which, once it approves the request, passes the annual intelligence authorization act. The latter originated in the late 1970s, as a result of congressional distrust toward the executive branch in the fallout from the Watergate scandal.

Intelligence authorization acts, in addition to numerous mechanisms for direct congressional oversight of intelligence, gives Congress influence over intelligence activities. In the case of the intelligence authorization process, Congress may refuse budgeting for certain requested activities, with the result being a tug-of-war between the White House and Capitol Hill. On the other hand, the President himself may veto intelligence authorization acts, which also include other, non-budgetary, provisions.



Andrew, Christopher M. For the President's Eyes Only: Secret Intelligence and the American Presidency from Washington to Bush. New York: HarperCollins, 1995.

Gore, Albert. The Intelligence Community: Accompanying Report of the National Performance Review, Office of the Vice President. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1993.

Helgerson, John L. Getting to Know the President: CIA Briefings of Presidential Candidates, 19521992. Washington, D.C.: Central Intelligence Agency, 1996.

Mann, Thomas E. A Question of Balance: The President, Congress. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1990.

Thompson, Kenneth W. The President, the Bureaucracy, and World Regions in Arms Control. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1998.


Executive Orders and Presidential Directives
Intelligence Authorization Acts, United States Congress
Intelligence Community
Intelligence, United States Congressional Oversight
National Security Strategy, United States
NIC (National Intelligence Council)
NSC (National Security Council)
PFIAB (President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board)
Politics: The Briefings of United States Presidential Candidates
United States, Intelligence and Security

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President of the United States


The head of theexecutive branch, one of the three branches of the federal government.

The U.S. Constitution sets relatively strict requirements about who may serve as president and for how long. Under Article II, only a natural-born citizen of the United States is eligible to serve as president; a person born outside the United States, even if he later becomes a citizen, may not serve. In addition, a person must be at least 35 years old to become president and must have resided in the United States for at least 14 years. Under the twenty-second amendment, which was added to the Constitution in 1951, no person may serve as president for more than two four-year terms. The amendment further provides that a person who succeeds to the office for more than two years of an unexpired term (for example, because a sitting president dies or resigns) may serve for only one additional four-year term.

Article II also sets limits on the president's authority. The article provides that the president is the commander in chief of the armed services. As commander in chief, the president has the power to preserve the peace by governing a captured territory until Congress establishes civil authority over it; the president also may declare martial law, which provides for the imposition of military authority over civilians in the event of an invasion, insurrection, disaster, or similar occurrence. In addition, the president

can end a war through a treaty or a presidential proclamation. The power to declare war, however, is vested exclusively in Congress and not the president. In a situation of an undeclared war, under the War Powers Resolution of 1973 (50 U.S.C.A. §§ 1541 et seq.) the president must consult with Congress before introducing armed forces into hostilities. Nevertheless, the practical effect of the statute is somewhat limited because it recognizes the power of the president to unilaterally deploy military forces when necessary.

As the head of the executive branch, the president executes the law but does not legislate, although he submits budgets and may propose bills to Congress. The president's legislative power is limited to approving or disapproving bills passed by Congress. If the president approves a measure, it becomes law. If he vetoes the bill, or refuses to approve it, it goes back to either the House of Representatives or to the Senate (wherever the bill first originated). If both bodies then pass the bill again by a two-thirds margin, the president's veto has been overridden and he must sign it into law.

In 1996 Congress sought to give the president more control over the budget by passing a line-item veto law (2 U.S.C.A. § 691 [1996]). Under the law the president could veto portions of an appropriation bill while leaving the remainder of the legislation intact. Members of Congress challenged the law as an unconstitutional surrender of Article I congressional power that jeopardized the separation of powers, but the Supreme Court refused to hear the case until the veto was actually used. After President Clinton used the line-time veto several entities that lost federal funds because of the veto filed a federal lawsuit. The Supreme Court, in Clinton v. City of New York, 524 U.S.417, 118 S.Ct. 2091, 141 L.Ed.2d 393 (1998), struck down the law. The law allowed the president to effectively amend or repeal acts of Congress, but this action was not authorized by the Constitution. The only way for the president to obtain this power would be through the passage of a constitutional amendment.

The president's executive powers also include the authority to issue proclamations and executive orders. A proclamation is a general announcement of policy, whereas an executive order has the force and effect of law by carrying out a provision of the Constitution, a federal statute, or a treaty. For example, during world war ii President franklin d. roosevelt issued an executive order confining Japanese American citizens to camps following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

The president has the exclusive authority to represent the United States in its relationships with governments of other countries. Through the secretary of state and other officials, the president communicates with other nations, recognizes foreign governments, and makes agreements, including the negotiation of treaties. Treaties, however, must be approved by two-thirds of the Senate before taking effect. Executive agreements with other nations do not require Senate approval but still carry the force of law. For instance, the United States, through the president, has frequently entered into executive agreements to supply economic aid to other nations.

In domestic matters the president is advised by the cabinet, which consists of more than a dozen executive departments covering a wide range of areas, including commerce, housing, labor, and the treasury. Each department is headed by a secretary, who is responsible for its overall administration and for reporting to the president.

Should the president be unable to serve a full term, Article II and the twenty-fifth amendment to the Constitution provide for a line of succession. If the president dies, resigns, or is removed from office through the impeachment process, the vice president becomes the acting president. This transfer of power also occurs if the president informs both houses of Congress that he is temporarily unable to discharge the duties of president. The House of Representatives can impeach a president or indict him for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. If the House votes to impeach, the president is not automatically removed from office; impeachment is instead a formal charge accusing the president of a crime. The articles, or charges, of impeachment are submitted to the Senate, where the president is tried, with the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court presiding over the proceeding. A two-thirds vote in the Senate is needed for a conviction and the removal of the president from office. andrew johnson was impeached in 1868 and then was acquitted by only one vote. In 1974 the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach richard m. nixon, but he resigned from office before the entire House could vote on the matter. The House of Representatives passed a bill of impeachment against President bill clinton, but the Senate acquitted him of the charges in 1999.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the president has absolute immunity from civil lawsuits seeking damages for presidential actions. However, the Court ruled in Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 117 S.Ct. 1636, 137 L.Ed.2d 945 (1997), that a sitting president does not have presidential immunity from suit over conduct unrelated to his official duties. The holding came in a civil suit brought by Paula Corbin Jones against President Clinton. Jones's suit was based on conduct alleged to have occurred while Clinton was governor of Arkansas. Clinton had sought to postpone the lawsuit until after he left office.

The Court stated that it had never suggested that the president or any other public official has an immunity that "extends beyond the scope of any action taken in an official capacity." The Court has based its immunity doctrine on a functional approach, extending immunity only to "acts in performance of particular functions of his office." It also rejected Clinton's claim that the courts would violate the separation of powers between the executive and judicial branches if a court heard the suit. Finally, the Court rejected the president's contention that defending the lawsuit would impose unacceptable burdens on the president's time and energy. It seemed unlikely to the Court that President Clinton would have to be occupied with the Jones lawsuit for any substantial amount of time. The Court also expressed skepticism that denying immunity to the president would generate a "deluge of such litigation." In the history of the presidency, only three other presidents had been subject to civil damage suits for actions taken prior to holding office.

further readings

Brinkley, Alan, and Davis Dyer, eds. 2004. The American Presidency. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Milkis, Sidney M. 2003. The American Presidency: Origins and Development, 1776–2002. 4th ed. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.

Nelson, Michael, ed. 2003. The Presidency A to Z. 3d ed. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.

Will, George F., and George R. Stephanopoulos. 2001. "The Power of the Presidency." Northern Kentucky Law Review 28 (summer).


Constitution of the United States; Electoral College; Executive Privilege; Impeachment; Presidential Powers; Separation of Powers; Watergate. See also "Presidential Speeches" section of Appendix.

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Presidents of the United States ( (table))

Presidents of the United States

Presidents of the United States
President Political Party Dates in Office Vice President(s)
George Washington   1789–97 John Adams
John Adams Federalist 1797–1801 Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson Democratic-Republican 1801–9 Aaron Burr, 1801–5 George Clinton, 1805–9
James Madison Democratic-Republican 1809–17 George Clinton, 1809–12 (no Vice President, Apr., 1812–Mar., 1813) Elbridge Gerry, 1813–14 (no Vice President, Nov., 1814–Mar., 1817)
James Monroe Democratic-Republican 1817–25 Daniel D. Tompkins
John Quincy Adams Democratic-Republican 1825–29 John C. Calhoun
Andrew Jackson Democratic 1829–37 John C. Calhoun, 1829–32 (no Vice President, Dec., 1832–Mar., 1833) Martin Van Buren, 1833–37
Martin Van Buren Democratic 1837–41 Richard M. Johnson
William Henry Harrison Whig 1841 John Tyler
John Tyler Whig 1841–45 (no Vice President)
James Knox Polk Democratic 1845–49 George M. Dallas
Zachary Taylor Whig 1849–50 Millard Fillmore
Millard Fillmore Whig 1850–53 (no Vice President)
Franklin Pierce Democratic 1853–57 William R. King, 1853 (no Vice President, Apr., 1853–Mar., 1857)
James Buchanan Democratic 1857–61 John C. Breckinridge
Abraham Lincoln Republican 1861–65 Hannibal Hamlin, 1861–65 Andrew Johnson, 1865
Andrew Johnson Democratic/National Union 1865–69 (no Vice President)
Ulysses Simpson Grant Republican 1869–77 Schuyler Colfax, 1869–73 Henry Wilson, 1873–75 (no Vice President, Nov., 1875–Mar., 1877)
Rutherford Birchard Hayes Republican 1877–81 William A. Wheeler
James Abram Garfield Republican 1881 Chester A. Arthur
Chester Alan Arthur Republican 1881–85 (no Vice President)
Grover Cleveland Democratic 1885–89 Thomas A. Hendricks, 1885 (no Vice President, Nov., 1885–Mar., 1889)
Benjamin Harrison Republican 1889–93 Levi P. Morton
Grover Cleveland Democratic 1893–97 Adlai E. Stevenson
William McKinley Republican 1897–1901 Garret A. Hobart, 1897–99 (no Vice President, Nov., 1899–Mar., 1901) Theodore Roosevelt, 1901
Theodore Roosevelt Republican 1901–9 (no Vice President, Sept., 1901–Mar., 1905) Charles W. Fairbanks, 1905–9
William Howard Taft Republican 1909–13 James S. Sherman, 1909–12 (no Vice President, Oct., 1912–Mar., 1913)
Woodrow Wilson Democratic 1913–21 Thomas R. Marshall
Warren Gamaliel Harding Republican 1921–23 Calvin Coolidge
Calvin Coolidge Republican 1923–29 (no Vice President, 1923–25) Charles G. Dawes, 1925–29
Herbert Clark Hoover Republican 1929–33 Charles Curtis
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Democratic 1933–45 John N. Garner, 1933–41 Henry A. Wallace, 1941–45 Harry S. Truman, 1945
Harry S. Truman Democratic 1945–53 (no Vice President, 1945–49) Alben W. Barkley, 1949–53
Dwight David Eisenhower Republican 1953–61 Richard M. Nixon
John Fitzgerald Kennedy Democratic 1961–63 Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon Baines Johnson Democratic 1963–69 (no Vice President, 1963–65) Hubert H. Humphrey, 1965–69
Richard Milhous Nixon Republican 1969–74 Spiro T. Agnew, 1969–73 (no Vice President, Oct. 10, 1973–Dec. 6, 1973) Gerald R. Ford, 1973–74
Gerald Rudolph Ford Republican 1974–77 (no Vice President, Aug. 9, 1974–Dec. 19, 1974) Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1974–77
Jimmy Carter Democratic 1977–81 Walter F. Mondale
Ronald Wilson Reagan Republican 1981–89 George H.W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush Republican 1989–93 J. Danforth Quayle
Bill Clinton Democratic 1993–2001 Albert Gore, Jr.
George Walker Bush Republican 2001–9 Dick Cheney
Barack Hussein Obama Democratic 2009– Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

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US Presidents

US Presidents






1 At inauguration; Kennedy was the youngest, Reagan the oldest

2 Died in office and succeeded by the vice president

3 Assassinated in office and succeeded by the vice president

4 A Democrat, Johnson was nominated vice president by Republicans and elected with Lincoln on a National Union ticket

5 Born Hiram Grant

6 Resigned in face of impeachment proceedings following the Watergate scandal

7 Born Leslie Lynch King


George Washington




John Adams





Thomas Jefferson





James Madison





James Monroe





John Quincy Adams





Andrew Jackson





Martin Van Buren





William H. Harrison2





John Tyler





James K. Polk





Zachary Taylor2





Millard Fillmore





Franklin Pierce





James Buchanan





Abraham Lincoln3





Andrew Johnson4


Nat. Union



Ulysses S. Grant5





Rutherford B. Hayes





James A. Garfield3





Chester A. Arthur





Grover Cleveland





Benjamin Harrison





Grover Cleveland





William McKinley3





Theodore Roosevelt





William H. Taft





Woodrow Wilson





Warren Harding2





Calvin Coolidge





Herbert Hoover





Franklin D. Roosevelt2





Harry S. Truman





Dwight D. Eisenhower





John Kennedy3





Lyndon Johnson





Richard Nixon6





Gerald Ford7





Jimmy Carter





Ronald Reagan





George Bush





Bill Clinton





George W. Bush




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