To understand the meaning of a statute, one must examine not just the statutory text that exists today, but also how that text has changed over time.
Congress enacts a statute to address an issue. A later Congress will assess the statute as it then exists, and will sometimes amend the statutory text to address newly perceived problems. By examining how a statute changes over time, we can see how various Congresses perceived problems with an area of law and attempted to address those problems.
My research on intelligence oversight statutes made clear to me the importance of understanding the history of the statutory text. But I encountered significant difficulties when I tried to track down and understand exactly how the statutory text changed over time. I thought there must be a better way to make this type of legislative history available, and to present it in a way that highlights the statutory changes over time.
As the Code Changes will provide a visual representation of how sections of the U.S. Code evolve over time. This website highlights the dynamic nature of the U.S. Code, making it easier to see the important changes that Congress has made as it sees how the Executive Branch and others interpret its earlier enactments.
The first four sections provided here deal with congressional oversight of intelligence, and provide a helpful accompaniment to my article, Congress’s Right to Counsel in Intelligence Oversight, 2011 U. Ill L. Rev. 915 (2011).
This cascading menu lets you examine how particular statues have changed over time. Below you will see the first four sections of the U.S. Code that have been researched for As The Code Changes.
Click a researched section to view its timeline. A vertical timeline will unfold, marking the years in which the section underwent a modification. Clicking on a particular year shows the statute as it existed in that year, after any Congressional changes. Clicking the shows the changes between the earlier and later version of that section.
Green text indicates additions to the code. Red strikethrough text indicates removals. If at any point you wish to close a section, click on its header and it will disappear.
Professor of Law
Washington University in St. Louis