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.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Reddit0Share on Facebook0Google+2Email to someone

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

Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel @RachelBLevinson What did you name your daughter instead, bc you're right, Sasha does rock. @onekade
2mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Clock cannot run out on Loretta Lynch fast enough. https://t.co/hOGgy78dMo
3mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @onekade Alex may be the best mainstream gender neutral name (while acknowledging Chris is even more gender neutraller).
3mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @onekade Jamie and And(ie) as nicknames. Do they need an underlying real name? This child won't need to be baptized after a saint, right?
12mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @JeffLandale People forget that FISC offers the equivalent of letting IC drop a class until finals are due to support grade inflation
15mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @JeffLandale Right. But it was past dry run stage, in that it counted as an app. Usu they get withdrawn before that if they're "rejected."
15mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @onekade Are you having a baby, Kade? Is there something you're not telling us? @TyreJim
17mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @onekade Aidan. It's male in Ireland (says my angry Irish spouse), where it's from, but neutral here. @TyreJim
18mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @JeffLandale Also, while everyone saying "FISC didn't reject any app again" effectively they did, which is unusual, and may have done more
19mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @JeffLandale (On a smaller scale) the 2009 violations.
22mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @JeffLandale In any case, only time we've seen a spike like that is when Tech cos demanded 215 orders instead lf NSLs for ECTRs or...
22mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @JeffLandale FISC is including prospective location collection on targeted FISA orders, so it's possible this is that (eg Stingrays)
23mreplyretweetfavorite
January 2013
S M T W T F S
« Dec   Feb »
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031