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On one hand, this is perfectly understandable since such former intelligence employees bring much-needed subject matter expertise to the task of oversight, along with an existing security clearance. On the other hand, they may also possess a narrow, compliant perspective and a set of personal interests that limit their effectiveness, particularly if they ever hope to return to the ranks of their former employers. Meanwhile, it is hard to think of an intelligence committee staff member who joined the committee following a career devoted to civil liberties, government accountability or personal privacy.

That's not a smear of intel committee staff. It's just another way in which the loop is closed. Tightly circumscribed oversight by undermanned committee staffs, many of whom were themselves once members of the intel community, goes to the same basic point: What we think of as congressional oversight is very different from the kind of oversight the intelligence community gets.

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David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.