assassination squads

Rather than Lying to Congress, CIA Now Blows It Off

Five months into Obama’s first term, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta caused a scandal by telling Congress about Blackwater-staffed assassination squads deployed under the Bush Administration; we would ultimately learn the program was run by a still-active mafia hitman.

Partly in response and partly because of the CIA’s lies to Congress under the Bush Administration, the Intelligence Committees began to tie funding to full briefing of the Committees, rather than just Gang of Eight (which were really Gang of Four) briefings Bush used to avoid oversight. The White House responded by issuing a veto threat if Congress violated the “fundamental compact” of letting CIA operate with almost no oversight. In response, after adding the shoot-down of a missionary plane to the scope, then House Intelligence Chair Silvestre Reyes got Pete Hoekstra to support an investigation into all the times CIA lied to Congress, which Reyes announced in July 2009. By October 2009, the House Intelligence Committee released its preliminary conclusion that CIA had lied to Congress on at least five occasions. In summer 2010, Nancy Pelosi got pissed. In October 2010, Obama finally signed Intelligence Authorization purportedly agreeing to new oversight. In November 2010, Reyes released the final results of the HPSCI inquiry, which showed that “in several specific instances, certain individuals did not adhere to the high standards set forth by the Intelligence Community and its agencies.” However, he said, most of the problems were fixed with that year’s Authorization. In the next Congress, Reyes would be replaced as Ranking Member at HPSCI by Dutch Ruppersberger, a servant to the NSA.

From June 2009 until October 2010, a Democratic Congress and the Obama Administration were engaged in a surprisingly contentious argument over whether the Administration would permit Congress to engage in adequate oversight of the Intelligence Community. In October 2010, the Administration purportedly agreed to abide by the clear terms of the National Security Act, which requires briefing of all members of the Intelligence Committees on covert programs.

With that in mind, consider the timeline suggested by Senate Intelligence Committee member Ron Wyden’s letter to John Brennan (see also this post).

December 2010: Wyden and Russ Feingold ask Eric Holder about “the interpretation of a particular statute” (probably having to do with online privacy)

Before January 2011: Wyden asks about targeted killing authority

April 2011: Wyden calls Eric Holder with questions about targeted killing authority

May 2011: Intelligence Community provides some response to Wyden, without answering basic questions

Before January 2012: Wyden asks for “the complete list of countries in which the intelligence community has used its lethal counterterrorism authorities”

Early 2012: Wyden repeats request for response to letter about a particular statute (probably online privacy)

February 2012: Wyden renews his request for answers on targeted killing

In October 2010, the Obama Administration agreed to let Congress oversee the Intelligence Community’s activities.

Almost immediately thereafter, the Administration started stonewalling Wyden, a member of one of those Committees with supposedly renewed oversight authority, on at least three issues (though two–the lethal authority and the targeted killing–are closely related). (As I’ll discuss in a follow-up post, they also blew off Wyden’s request to revoke an OLC opinion that probably guts Americans’ privacy.)

And remarkably, one of the topics on which the IC is stonewalling Wyden–where the IC has engaged in lethal counterterrorism authorities–may well be precisely the issue that set off this process back in June 2009, the use not just of drones to kill alleged terrorists, but also assassination squads.

Even as Wyden made this timeline clear, he also revealed not only that the CIA lied to all the outside entities overseeing its torture program, but continues to lie to the American people about that program.

As Obama’s top counterterrorism advisor and an at least tangential participant in the earlier decisions on the “lethal counterterrorism authorities,” John Brennan has presumably been instrumental in the continued stonewalling of Congress. In a few weeks, he hopes to be approved to lead the CIA.

Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel @pwnallthethings Yes. But that is, of course, an admission that Russian HUMINT has access to gold dust via many channels. @BradMossEsq
1mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @pwnallthethings The more functional you get the more over-cautious people will be abt defaulting to classified. @BradMossEsq
2mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @pwnallthethings Agree there too. But at that level I expect lots of most interesting to be private emails and classified. @BradMossEsq
3mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @BradMossEsq I don't believe I said that. But I do think YOU are treating these as if they're the crown jewels. They're not.
4mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @nickmanes1 Possible Sheldon is considering bankrolling Snyder to undercut the other midwest governor the Kochs will be funding @p2wy
5mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @pwnallthethings Moreover given Russian competence in other collection approaches, they likely knew most of this. @BradMossEsq
8mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @pwnallthethings Of course. But I assume it's nowhere near the most sensitive stuff Russia has gotten from us. @BradMossEsq
9mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @nickmanes1 With unbelievable cowardice, the same way he has approached gay marriage? Plus, if Sheldon's banking him...
17mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @BradMossEsq You forgot the bit where 1) these are unclassified emails 2) Obama's WH overclassifies everything.
20mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @BradMossEsq Actually pointing out that CISA wouldn't do anything to stop it. But that may be a bit subtle for you to understand, I get that
29mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @OKnox: While @jetjocko is right that it isn't really deserving of #NerdProm moniker, well...I try http://t.co/qnj5iv15uW
37mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @OKnox @jetjocko Okay, that's very cool
39mreplyretweetfavorite
April 2015
S M T W T F S
« Mar    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930