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The Gang of Eight is a colloquial term for a set of eight leaders within the United States Congress who are briefed on classified intelligence matters by the executive branch. Specifically, the Gang of Eight includes the leaders of each of the two parties from both the Senate and House of Representatives, and the chairs and ranking minority members of both the Senate Committee and House Committee for intelligence as set forth by .
The President of the United States is required by to "ensure that the congressional intelligence committees are kept fully and currently informed of the intelligence activities of the United States." However, under , the President may elect to report instead to the Gang of Eight under "extraordinary circumstances", when he thinks "it is essential to limit access" to information about a covert action.
In the spring of 2013, the intelligence "Gang of Eight" was often confused with the Gang of Eight (immigration).
The term "Gang of Eight" gained wide currency in the coverage of the Bush administration's NSA warrantless surveillance controversy, in the context that no members of Congress other than the Gang of Eight were informed of the program, and they were forbidden to disseminate knowledge of the program to other members of Congress. The Bush administration has asserted that the briefings delivered to the Gang of Eight sufficed to provide Congressional oversight of the program and preserve the checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches.
The non-partisan Congressional Research Service released a legal analysis on January 18, 2006, concluding that the Bush administration's refusal to brief any members of Congress on the warrantless domestic spying program other than the Gang of Eight is "inconsistent with the law".
Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales repeatedly made references to the "Gang of Eight" when being questioned about the warrantless surveillance/ domestic spying while testifying at the Justice Department Oversight hearing held July 24, 2007. AG Gonzales' testimony may be retrieved from C-SPAN online.
The Gang of Eight appeared in the Season Three finale of the political drama The West Wing. President Bartlet was staging an assassination of a foreign leader who was discovered to be behind several terrorist attacks, including a failed attack on the Golden Gate Bridge. The Gang of Eight on The West Wing consisted of the Majority and Minority Leaders from both the House and the Senate as well as the Chairman and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. The Gang of Eight on The West Wing differed from the real world's Gang of Eight as the Speaker of the House (portrayed in the fourth and fifth seasons of the show by actor John Goodman) was not a member.