Bipartisan Agreement: Garbage into Intel Oversight, Garbage Out

House Intelligence Chair Mike Rogers made headlines on Monday by responding to a last ditch Dennis Kucinich call for more review of drone strikes by claiming that public reports on civilian casualties are “wildly wrong.”

“I think that you would be shocked and stunned how wrong those public reports are about civilian casualties,” Rogers said on the House floor.

“Those reports are wrong. They are not just wrong, they are wildly wrong. And I do believe that people use those reports for their own political purposes outside of the country to try to put pressure on the United States,” Rogers said.

And because House Intel Ranking Member Dutch Ruppersberger joined Rogers’ claims, some have taken this as magic bipartisan proof that the many indices that have done independent reviews of intelligence community claims about civilian drone casualties are wrong.

The ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), said he agreed with Rogers’s assessment, but also did not reveal anything more specific.

“Unfortunately, there are some casualties, very minor,” he said. “What you read in the media is usually not what the facts are.”

I have already noted what happens when Gang of Four members who purportedly serve as the foundation of our oversight over the intelligence community turn into talking heads defending it.

Ruppersberger’s inconsistency on this point reminded me that after the super secret drone killing of some American citizens last year, the Gang of Four all weighed in to assure Americans that Anwar al-Awlaki’s death was “legitimate” because there had been “a process.” The Gang’s loquacity contrasted sharply with the Administration’s silence on the very same issue, one reiterated since in the Administration’s Glomar claims about topics the Gang of Four feels welcome to discuss. That contrast is all the more troubling given that Ruppersberger admitted that the Gang of Four does not know who is on the Kill List (and therefore didn’t really know whether the killing of Samir Khan was “legitimate”).

It’s all very neat. Not only does the Gang of Four enjoy immunity from prosecution under the Speech or Debate Clause. But they were–and presumably are–serving as journalistic sources on topics about which they aren’t (though legally should be) fully informed.

Last week Julian Sanchez and Mike Masnick rehashed an earlier version of this, when the Bush Administration armed the Intelligence Committees with talking points that would reinforce their lies that the Terrorist Surveillance Program constituted the entirety of the illegal wiretap program.

Note what that does to the whole question of “legitimacy.” The Gang of Four only knows what Administration and agency officials tell them.  Yet, even in spite of potential and real limits to their knowledge of a program (and a history of deliberately misleading briefings on such topics), they will weigh in and declare something “legitimate.”

But this case is all the more interesting because Kucinich was specifically pushing his colleagues–these overseers–to question their knowledge on this front.

Look at the consequences of civilian casualties … raise questions about the information that’s being given to you,” Kucinich said.

That is, Kucinich was raising a process question–one that goes to the heart of the cognitive problem intelligence overseers have, which is that they rely exclusively on those they are purportedly overseeing for the knowledge they use to exercise that oversight.

And rather than telling us what the real tally was, or even explaining how he knew his knowledge was better than that of people who have sent independent journalists to double check tallies, Rogers simply insisted that he knows best.

Based, by all appearances, solely on the very narrow information those he oversees choose to give him.

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3 Responses to Bipartisan Agreement: Garbage into Intel Oversight, Garbage Out

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Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel @Bethrich52 Yes. I've written about it. My hope is along w/everything else that Horowitz is pushing for he sneaks in override of OPR.
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emptywheel Note, it's not JUST DHS that has privacy problems w/cyber sharing. DOJ's IG found people aren't sharing w/FBI bc of privacy concerns too.
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emptywheel RT @ddayen: Ironically, TPP is stumbling over which pieces of protectionism to maintain: prescription drugs, sugar, rice, dairy http://t.co
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emptywheel @tonygoldd3 OK OK OK. But remember this involves space heroes AND @ChuckGrassley in a crummy mood abt DOJ's latest power grab.
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emptywheel The Inspectors General have gotten space hero John Glenn to weigh in against DOJ's efforts to limit IG access. https://t.co/QQHS7n3l52
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emptywheel @p2wy Sort of slow for a primary qua general. Just now?
56mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @mar7k Lindsey, who has a driver and no wife, doesn't have either of those problems. @TyMcCormick
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emptywheel Apparently beating up McCain will change people's opinion about someone. http://t.co/7bfsbG5Ptu
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emptywheel @jbendery Let's work helmet laws in there too. That'll get 'em.
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emptywheel @jbendery Cause preemies can survive. But not "naturally."
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emptywheel @jbendery Does keeping an ill person --or a preemie--on a respirator count as "natural life"?
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emptywheel @jbendery I raise it bc I think hammering GOPers on what they mean by that term would highlight problems w/their stance against choice.
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