But before I talked about what made it into the bill, I’d like to highlight what isn’t in it: language requiring the Intelligence Community to consider climate change. The minority views reveal,
One of the bill’s weaknesses is that it does not do enough to enhance analysis of the national security implications of climate change, which the Intelligence Community refers to as environmental indications and warning. Whether by driving competition for scare [sic] resources, by opening the Arctic, or by increasing sea level and storm surge near our naval installations, climate change will have profound, destabilizing effects which need to be understood, anticipated, and accounted for. There may be disagreement about the causes of climate change, but the national security consequences are so significant that they cannot be ignored.
The intelligence community has been delving into this area in recent years (and appear to have renamed climate change “environmental indications and warning”). But thus far, the IC has stopped short of treating climate change as the threat to the US it clearly represents.
It appears Democrats on HPSCI tried to change that. And Republicans refused.
Someday the climate deniers will be held responsible for leaving our country vulnerable. And the Democrats will have left a record of those who should be held responsible.
Civil liberties groups are — according to the Hill — getting cold feet on the USA Freedom (aka Freedumb) bill. The claim is that the Administration and “members of the House” are working to gut the bill.
“Last stage negotiations” between members of the House and the Obama administration could significantly weaken provisions in the NSA bill, people familiar with the discussions say.
“Behind the scenes, there’s some nervousness,” one House aide said.
But this makes limited sense: a bill, virtually identical in wording, was passed by two committees, the House Judiciary and House Intelligence Committee. So in principle, the bill should come to the floor with that same identical wording.
Except, as I noted, Mike Rogers said he had some “technical changes” to put into place. And unlike the technical changes Zoe Lofgren tried to put into place at HJC (to make clear that Section 215 can’t be used to collect content), Rogers got a vote of the committee to support making those technical changes without further review of the committee. So Mike Rogers has carte blanche to change this bill. Now wonder Jan Schakowsky is worried.
As I suggested, there are two things I think Rogers might want to fix: tweaking the definition of “specific selection term” (or eliminating it altogether) or changing the language on bulk collection to protect some programs that are bulk but thus far unknown.
Which is another way of saying that HJC got screwed in this deal. (Told them!)
We shall see: I’m of the opinion that if Rogers fucks with this the bill must be killed, otherwise Rogers will ruin it in conference.
There are two reviews of whether HR 3361 constitutes real reform today, one from McClatchy and one from National Journal, both written partly in response to privacy groups’ realization that Mike Rogers has been doing a circumspect victory lap over the shape of the bill.
While neither examines the flip side of the bill — what the intelligence community will gain from this — they both provide a useful caution about the potential pitfalls in the bill, many (but not all) I’ve examined at this site.
McClatchy is particularly useful, though, for the comments from Adam Schiff and Jan Schakowsky, two of the only people on the House Intelligence Committee who tend to balance the interests of civil liberties against the demands of the intelligence community. Here’s what they had to say about the legislative prospects.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., an Intelligence Committee member who isn’t among the letter writers, said he hoped to offer an amendment that would seek to “introduce a greater adversarial process in the FISA court” by establishing a panel of attorneys from which counsel could be selected to participate in cases that involved novel legal and technical issues.
“I believe the civil liberties protections can be improved,” Schiff said.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., an Intelligence Committee member, praised the House bill. “If we could improve it,” she said, “I would go back to the original bill’s provisions that would implement stronger reporting regulations and create an office of the special advocate.”
Schakowsky added, though, “ I am most concerned at this point about preventing any efforts to weaken this bipartisan compromise.”
Remember, HPSCI held its markup behind closed doors, and there has been little leaking about went on there, aside from Rogers’ crowing. So this offers a bit of a read of what might have gone on.
Schiff, if you recall, was one of the very first people to get Keith Alexander to admit the government could conduct its contact-chaining program with the telecoms retaining the data. He is generally a pretty good read on the art of the possible. If he thinks this bill can be improved, perhaps he’s got reason for optimism.
But I find Schakowsky’s warning potentially more realistic.
Remember, one thing HPSCI considered was removing all definition of “specific selection term” (or “identifier,” which HPSCI also included). Without a definition, the bill might only prevent bulk collection of phone records, if that; I believe the government could come up with “selection terms” for everything else that would permit systematic programs. And I suspect something like dropping the definition would — will — happen if this ever gets to a conference (indeed, as Jim Sensenbrenner knows better than anyone, that’s how some of the existing loopholes got retained in PATRIOT in 2005-6, at a time when there was also bipartisan uproar over illegal spying). I think Schakowsky is realistic in worrying that, with the momentum it has picked up with unanimous passage in HJC and a voice vote passage in HPSCI, it could get worse just as easily as it could get better.
As I’ve said, this bill defuses the digital equivalent of a nuclear bomb by taking the phone-based relationship database out of the hands of the government. That’s important.
But from there, it’s unclear what effect this bill will have in practice, and could become far less clear if things like that definition disappear. So we’d be well to take Schakowsky’s warning seriously.
NYT’s excellent new ombud, Margaret Sullivan, returns to a perennial ombud issue, how the Grey Lady refers to Executive Branch actions and abuses. She includes a long quote from Scott Shane that reveals a great deal about his reporting, and ultimately convinces me we should be calling drone killing assassination.
Adherence to “Targeted Killing” Even While Admitting It’s Not
Let’s start with Shane’s defense of the term “targeted killing” (a term I sometimes use but should not). Sadly, Sullivan cuts off the direct quote from Scott Shane at its most important part, but in the following, the first paragraph here is a direct quote from Shane, the second Sullivan’s report of his comment.
This leaves “targeted killing,” which I think is far from a euphemism. It denotes exactly what’s happening: American drone operators aim at people on the ground and fire missiles at them. I think it’s a pretty good term for what’s happening, if a bit clinical.
Mr. Shane added that he had only one serious qualm about the term. That, he said, was expressed by an administration official: “It’s not the targeted killings I object to — it’s the untargeted killings.” The official “was talking about so-called ‘signature strikes’ that target suspected militants based on their appearance, location, weapons and so on, not their identities, which are unknown; and also about mistaken strikes that kill civilians.”
Shane defends using “targeted killing,” even while admitting that a great deal of drone killing is not targeted. Unless Shane knows a great deal more about individual strikes than he lets on — and therefore knows which drone strikes are targeted at known identities and which are targeted at crowds of unknown military aged males — then he is party to an apparently deliberate strategy on the part of the Administration to spin its killing program as much more orderly and legally justified than it actually is. We saw this operate as recently as yesterday, when John Brennan responded to a question from Jan Schakowsky about signature strikes by telling her to look back at speeches that address only “targeted killing.”
SCHAKOWSKY: Let me ask you this, is there any way that you can define and distinguish between targeted strikes and signature strikes by the — by drones?
BRENNAN: I would refer to the comments that were made by a number of U.S. government officials publicly in speeches, including when I was at the White House. I’m not going to engage in any type of discussion on that here to the Congress, ma’am.
As I said, I’m as guilty of using this term without sufficient awareness as Shane. But doing so consciously really is participating in a propaganda effort the Administration is engaged in.
Executive Order 12333’s Invisible Ink
Then there’s Shane’s refusal to use “assassination” based on Administration claims about Executive Order 12333, which ostensibly prohibits the practice.
“Assassination” is banned by executive order, but for decades that has been interpreted by successive administrations as prohibiting the killing of political figures, not suspected terrorists. Continue reading
Man, have the Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee — particularly Dianne Feinstein and Jay Rockefeller — been pawned. One of their key issues during John Brennan’s confirmation was the declassification of the 6,000 page torture report.
Based on both Saxby Chambliss’ representation of comments Brennan made in their private meeting and on the delayed CIA response about the report, I predicted Brennan would be stating publicly what he stated privately (not having read most of the report yet) to Saxby.
During John Brennan’s confirmation process, he answered questions about the Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture with two faces. To Saxby Chambliss in private, he said he thought the report was a prosecutorial document, set up to come to pre-ordained conclusions. Publicly, to Democrats, he said he was shocked–shocked!–by what he had read in the Executive Summary of the report.
It was quite clear that Brennan was playing the lawmakers who would get to vote on his confirmation, but they didn’t delay his confirmation to resolve the report declassification.
When Brennan’s confirmation got delayed by demands to exercise oversight, the CIA delayed its response — originally due February 15 — on the contents of the report. Indefinitely.
All of this, of course, sets up Brennan to refuse to declassify the report because he believes (and, importantly, believed from the start, according to Saxby Chambliss) that the people who have now rushed his confirmation through were acting in an unfairly prosecutorial mode when they spent 5 years documenting what CIA did in its torture program.
Here’s what Brennan said to Jan Schakowsky yesterday when she asked about the report.
SCHAKOWSKY: Let me ask you also, Mr. Brennan, as you know, the Senate Intelligence Committee report on former CIA detention and interrogation practices is under review with the — within the administration and the agency. Comments were originally due back to the committee on February 15, though the reply has now been delayed indefinitely.
On March 7 in the New York Times, former CIA Senior Analyst, Emile Nakhleh said that if any person can take this on, it would be you, Director Brennan. It’s you and that, quote, “the institution would benefit from the eventual — eventual declassification and release of the study.”
What is the current status of the review of the report and can you please just, if you could, discuss the importance as a leader of the — the leader of the CIA of its release?
BRENNAN: Well, clearly, it’s — it’s an important report that was issued by the — the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. I have as — as recently as earlier this [week] spoken with both the chairman and the vice chairman of the — the committee telling them that I am in the process of the reviewing of the — the document and will be getting back to them shortly. This is a 6,000 page document that has, you know, millions of pages behind it in terms of what was reviewed.
And so it’s my obligation as the Director of CIA to make sure that my response back to them is going to be thorough and as accurate as possible and will convey my views about what that report portrays about CIA’s past practices, what we have learned from that experience running the program as well as from that report and also to identify things that I might think that the — the committee may have — the committee’s report might not accurately represent. [my emphasis]
Schakowsky asked about the import of releasing the report, and Brennan instead responded by talking about using the report as a lessons learned document and also objecting to some of the things found in it.
But it sure looks like, unless someone starts pulling teeth, CIA will be “learning from this experience as well as from the report” in private, because Brennan pointedly didn’t respond to Schakowsky’s question about releasing the document publicly.
Kudos to Jan Schakowsky, who used today’s hearing on global threats to ask John Brennan some of the questions he so rarely gets asked.
She started by asking him generally about drones and his previous public comments about them. He responded by noting that he was a White House figure then, now he’s CIA Director (implying, I guess, that he shouldn’t be held to his previous comments).
She then asked specifically about Jonathan Landay’s reporting on the drone strikes — which, as you’ll recall, is reported directly from intelligence reports on drone strikes. Brennan responded, “A lot of things in press are reported inaccurately, in my opinion.” (Mind you, Landay’s reports did give Brennan an excuse for having lied so blatantly about civilian casualties in the past, so I guess his reporting is inaccurate, even though it helps Brennan!)
Schakowsky then asked about the difference between targeted and signature strikes. Brennan pointed back to the earlier dog and pony show on drones, which pretended signature strikes didn’t exist.
Schakowsky then asked for an update on the torture report. Brennan revealed he had spoken with Dianne Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss earlier this week. He told them he was in the process of reviewing the report (keep in mind, the original response to SSCI was due February 15, almost two months ago) and was doing a “thorough” review of some things he believed the committee did not report accurately.
If you’re John Brennan, if internal reports on drones make the CIA look bad, and if internal reports on torture make the CIA look bad, they are by definition inaccurate.
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.
I need to finish my series (post 1, post 2, post 3, post 4, post 5, post 6) on the Obama Administration’s efforts to hide what I’ve dubbed the “Gloves Come Off” Memorandum of Notification. As I described, the MON purportedly gave CIA authority to do a whole slew of things, but left it up to the CIA to decide how to implement the programs Bush authorized. And rather than giving the Intelligence Committees written notification of the details of the programs, CIA instead gave just the Gang of Four deceptive briefings on the programs, which not only gave a misleading sense of the programs, but also prevented Congress from being able to limit the programs by refusing to fund the activities.
Yet, as MadDog and I were discussing in the comments to this post, these aspects of the MON set up did not entirely elude the attention of Congressional overseers. In fact, the very first Democrat to be briefed that torture had been used (remember, Pelosi got briefed it might be used prospectively) asked questions that went to the heart of the problem with the structure of the MON.
The CIA won’t tell Jane Harman whether the President approved torture from a policy standpoint
Jane Harman was first briefed on the torture program, with Porter Goss, on February 5, 2003. We don’t actually know what transpired in that briefing because CIA never finalized a formal record of the briefing. But five days after the briefing, Harman wrote a letter to CIA General Counsel Scott Muller. In addition to using a word for the torture program CIA has redacted and objecting to the destruction of the torture tapes, Harman asked questions that should have elicited a response revealing the Gloves Come Off MON was what authorized the torture program.
It is also the case, however, that what was described raises profound policy questions and I am concerned about whether these have been as rigorously examined as the legal questions. I would like to know what kind of policy review took place and what questions were examined. In particular, I would like to know whether the most senior levels of the White House have determined that these practices are consistent with the principles and policies of the United States. Have enhanced techniques been authorized and approved by the President?
The whole point of a MON, after all, was to get the President on the record asserting that the programs authorized by it are “necessary to support identifiable foreign policy objectives of the United States and [are] important to the national security of the United States.” Here, Harman was asking whether the President was part of a policy review on torture.
Just over a week after Harman sent this letter, the CIA met with the White House to decide how to respond to Harman’s letter.
Now, granted, Harman’s question did not explicitly ask about a MON. But the CIA did not even answer the question she did ask. Muller basically told her policy had “been addressed within the Executive Branch” without saying anything about Bush’s role in it.
While I do not think it appropriate for me to comment on issues that are a matter of policy, much less the nature and extent of Executive Branch policy deliberations, I think it would be fair to assume that policy as well as legal matters have been addressed within the Executive Branch.
Kudos to Harman for actually asking questions. But at this point, she should have known that there was something funky about the legally required MON for the torture program.
Two years later, she was still trying to get answers about the MON. In her third briefing on torture (PDF 29-31; see also this post)–on July 13, 2004, which was almost 3 weeks after Harman should have received the Inspector General Report–Muller first claimed that the legal foundation for the torture program were the Bybee Memos (he provided this explanation in the context of explaining considerations of whether the program complied with Article 16 of the Convention against Torture).
The General Counsel said that the effort was working effectively under the DOJ 1 August 2002 memo which was the legal foundation for the debriefings and interrogations.
But later in the briefing, Harman appears to have noted that the MON didn’t authorize torture, it only authorized capture and detention.
Rep. Harman noted that the [redaction] did not specify interrogations and only authorized capture and detention. Continue reading
I have long argued that the way to address the big problems our government is currently all-but-ignoring, not least jobs and climate change, is to talk about how our current policies put us at significant national security risk. If nothing else, by demonstrating how these are national security issues, it’ll provide a way to reverse fear-monger against the Republicans trying to gut our country for profit.
Which is why I’m happy to learn that the intelligence community is assessing whether the decline in manufacturing in the US represents a national security threat.
The U.S. intelligence community will prepare a National Intelligence Estimate on the implications of the continuing decline in U.S. manufacturing capacity, said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) citing recent news reports.
Our growing reliance on imports and lack of industrial infrastructure has become a national security concern,” said Rep. Schakowsky. She spoke at a March 16 news conference (at 28:10) in opposition to the pending U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement.The Forbes report referenced by Rep. Schakowsky was “Intelligence Community Fears U.S. Manufacturing Decline,” by Loren Thompson, February 14. The decision to prepare an intelligence estimate was first reported by Richard McCormack in “Intelligence Director Will Look at National Security Implications of U.S. Manufacturing Decline,” Manufacturing & Technology News, February 3.
Note that Schakowsky is a member of (and until January, was a Subcommittee Chair on) the House Intelligence Committee. It’s possible her own requests generated this concern.
But the concern is real. As our manufacturing moves to places like China and (significantly for this context), Korea, we’ve lost certain capabilities. Indeed, when Bush slapped tariffs on steel in 2002, a number of tool and die factories moved to Korea where they could still access cheap steel while still supplying the US market. And in recent years, the loss of highly-skilled manufacturing process capabilities has meant we face challenges in sourcing some of our key military toys.
While it shouldn’t be the primary reason to invest in manufacturing in this country, ultimately if we keep losing it we’re going to have problems sustaining our military machine.
Most of the folks running DC may not much care that our middle class has disappeared along with our manufacturing base. But convince them that our declining manufacturing base might imperil their cherished military might, and they might finally wake up.
Apparently, the Jan Schakowsky’s House Subcommittee completed its investigations of all the times the CIA failed to inform the Gang of Eight about covert ops and in other ways broke the law. Apparently, that investigation found “several instances” where CIA failed for follow the law procedures. But you can’t know precisely what those violations are, because they’re secret.
Here’s Silvestre Reyes’ statement on the investigation.
Today, the Committee officially completed its investigation into the congressional notification practices of the Intelligence Community by voting to adopt a final report presented by Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Jan Schakowsky.
In its investigation, the Committee examined sixteen specific instances, spanning three Administrations, in which the Community did not provide Congress with complete, timely, and accurate information about intelligence activities. The Committee also examined federal law and regulations concerning the provision of information about intelligence activities to Congress; congressional notification policies, practices, and procedures across the Intelligence Community; and whether those contributed to any past notification failures.
The findings, I believe, are impressive and eye-opening. The report details the facts uncovered by the investigation in a thorough and even-handed manner. Its analysis is careful and well-founded. Its conclusions and recommendations are reasonable. I commend Ms. Schakowsky and her staff for their excellent work.
Given the sensitive nature of the investigation’s core issues, the content of the report is classified. I can say, though, that in several specific instances, certain individuals did not adhere to the high standards set forth by the Intelligence Community and its agencies. It’s the Committee’s aim to have these standards implemented on an official level, through policy, procedure, or law.
I am pleased to note that several of the recommendations contained in this report, including Gang of Eight reform, were largely enacted back in October when the President signed the FY2010 Intelligence Authorization Act into law.
Finally, let me emphasize that the Committee supports the efforts of the intelligence workforce in its difficult mission to keep America safe. And, while there may be differences of opinion with respect to specific findings, I think that all members can agree that the Committee must be kept fully and currently informed of significant intelligence activities in order to assist the Intelligence Community and keep them well-resourced. [my emphasis]