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The National Security Act of 1947, Pub. L. No. 235, 61 Stat. 495 (July 26, 1947), codified at 50 U.S.C. ch. 15, as amended.


The Act provided the basis for the modern organization of U.S. defense and national security by reorganizing military and intelligence functions in the federal government. It created the National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the position of Secretary of Defense. It established procedures for access to classified information.

The Act provides that the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) is responsible for providing timely and objective national intelligence "based upon all sources available to the intelligence community and other appropriate entities."[1] The Secretary of Defense has significant authorities and responsibilities related to the collection of national intelligence.[2]

The Act expressly provides for the use of intelligence to assist law enforcement officials abroad:

[E]lements of the intelligence community may, upon the request of a United States law enforcement agency, collect information outside the United States about individuals who are not United States persons. Such elements may collect such information notwithstanding that the law enforcement agency intends to use the information collected for purposes of a law enforcement investigation or counterintelligence investigation.[3]

DOD intelligence agencies are subject to certain limitations when providing such assistance. 50 U.S.C. §403-5a(b) provides that such assistance "may not include the direct participation of a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps in an arrest or similar activity" and may not be provided "if the provision of such assistance will adversely affect the military preparedness of the United States." The Secretary of Defense is required to establish regulations governing the provision of assistance to law enforcement agencies by DOD intelligence elements.[4]

The Act, as amended, states that, "The President shall ensure that the congressional intelligence committees are kept fully and currently informed of the intelligence activities of the United States,"[5] and that, "Nothing in this Act shall be construed as authority to withhold information from the congressional committees on the grounds that providing the information to the congressional intelligence committees would constitute the unauthorized disclosure of classified information or information relating to intelligence sources and methods."[6]

The Act neither authorizes nor prohibits the use of intelligence for law enforcement purposes within the United States, but other statutes apply, including the Posse Comitatus Act of 1879.

Application to cybersecurity[]

A broad consensus exists that a significant barrier to improving cybersecurity is limitations on sharing of information, including classified information, about cyber-threats and attacks.


  1. 50 U.S.C. §403-1(a).
  2. Id. §§403-4a and 403(5).
  3. Id. §403-5a.
  4. Id. §403-5a(c).
  5. 50 U.S.C. §413(a)(1).
  6. Id. §413(e).