Is This a Benghazi Question?

Particularly given some of the rumors about what the CIA was doing in Benghazi when Ambassador Chris Stevens got killed, I wonder whether this question — from the follow-up to John Brennan’s confirmation hearings — pertains to Benghazi.

In your responses to the Committee’s pre-hearing questions, you wrote that Chiefs of Mission must be kept fully and currently informed of the activities of U.S. government agencies in their countries, consistent with the provisions of 22 USC 3927. That statute also requires that U.S. Ambassadors “shall have full responsibility for the direction, coordination, and supervision of all United States Government officers and employees in that country,” and that “any department or agency having officers or employees in a country shall… comply fully with all applicable directives of the Ambassador.

Is it your understanding that intelligence activities are subject to the approval of the Chief of Mission?

Yes. Pursuant to the President’s instruction, codified in a 1977 agreement between the Department of State and the CIA, the Chief of Mission has a responsibility to express a judgment on all CIA activities in his or her country of accreditation in light of U.S. objectives in the host country and in the surrounding areas and to provide assessments on those activities to Washington. Further, if the Chief of Mission believes a CIA activity might impair U.S. relations with the host country, the Chief of Mission may suspect a CIA or other intelligence activity. If disputes arise between the Chief of Mission and the Chief of Station that cannot be resolved locally, they are referred to Washington for adjudication by Principals. In order to enable the Chief of Mission to meet these responsibilities, the Chief of Station must keep the Chief of Mission fully and currently informed of CIA activities in the host country (unless the President or Secretary of State has directed otherwise).

“Unless the President or Secretary of State has directed otherwise.” A rather big caveat.

MInd you, this question could be as much about Pakistan as it is about Libya. After all, the Pakistan exception to the drone rulebook arose, in part, because of Cameron Munter’s past objections to the drone strikes in Pakistan. Nevertheless, as written, the drone rulebook appears to let the CIA — that is, John Brennan, once he is confirmed — to do whatever he wants with drones in Pakistan.

None of those rules applies to the CIA drone campaign in Pakistan, which began under President George W. Bush. The agency is expected to give the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan advance notice on strikes. But in practice, officials said, the agency exercises near complete control over the names on its target list and decisions on strikes.

Imposing the playbook standards on the CIA campaign in Pakistan would probably lead to a sharp reduction in the number of strikes at a time when Obama is preparing to announce a drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan that could leave as few as 2,500 troops in place after 2014.

Officials said concerns about the CIA exemption were allayed to some extent by Obama’s decision to nominate Brennan, the principal author of the playbook, to run the CIA.

None of those rules applies to the CIA drone campaign in Pakistan, which began under President George W. Bush. The agency is expected to give the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan advance notice on strikes. But in practice, officials said, the agency exercises near complete control over the names on its target list and decisions on strikes.

Imposing the playbook standards on the CIA campaign in Pakistan would probably lead to a sharp reduction in the number of strikes at a time when Obama is preparing to announce a drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan that could leave as few as 2,500 troops in place after 2014.

Officials said concerns about the CIA exemption were allayed to some extent by Obama’s decision to nominate Brennan, the principal author of the playbook, to run the CIA.

So it’s not clear what weight Brennan’s answer has given that it appears the President has already written an exception for Pakistan and drones.

All that said, given the many reports that Chris Stevens didn’t know what the CIA (or, allegedly, Brennan, running ops out of the White House) was doing in Benghazi, I find DiFi’s effort to get Brennan on the record on this question rather interesting.

Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Reddit0Share on Facebook0Google+2Email to someone

3 Responses to Is This a Benghazi Question?

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel @onekade No no. Other stuff. Very pressing. Tomorrow. Also, stupid NGO fed me some actually interesting 12333 documents so mouth watering.
15mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @onekade Oh yeah.
16mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @joanneleon You've been sitting at home with a bowl, testing? Consumer Reports might pay for that. @NamelessCynic
17mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @joanneleon Right. Basic math right? More surface area more crappy cheap chocolate. @NamelessCynic
17mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @emptywheel @ShitSquare Whaaaa? Who, me?
19mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel RT @GRPress: Surfers braved big waves and snow today in Muskegon. That's Pure Michigan. Video: http://t.co/qFhFHfmWo8 http://t.co/YjCCK8DKaf
20mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @bmaz Hey, get off my @ShitSquare and start trash talking me about Noodle Arm storming Foxboro.
20mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Bingo. RT @emptywheel This is why Obama prolly could get Preet confirmed AG. http://t.co/LUV3herhhv
21mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @joanneleon Too much oxygen, too little nested treasure of HCFS nougatty goodness. Also, fewer peanuts. @NamelessCynic
21mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @FeleciaForAZ: "It's clear to me that APS is not making an endorsement, it's paying off Mr. Brnovich and he is welcoming this... http://…
22mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @nickmanes1 Sadly for Chuck Schumer he left open the "best Wall Street owned Senator on Twitter" role. @TimFernholz
25mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @nickmanes1 Booker would be Wall Street's baby even if he didn't live in NJ. @TimFernholz
28mreplyretweetfavorite
February 2013
S M T W T F S
« Jan   Mar »
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
2425262728