Mark Udall

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In Defending Dianne Feinstein, Ron Wyden Reminds that Michael Hayden Lied to Congress

Like Harry Reid and Mark Udall, Ron Wyden has defended Dianne Feinstein against Michael Hayden’s suggestion that she’s too “emotional” to investigate torture.

But unlike Reid and Udall — who attack Hayden for being a sexist pig (though not in that language) — Wyden attacks Hayden for being a liar.

General Hayden’s suggestion that Chairman Feinstein was motivated by ‘emotion’ rather than a focus on the facts is simply outrageous. Over the past five years I watched Chairman Feinstein manage this investigation in an extremely thorough and professional manner, and the result is an extraordinarily detailed report based on millions of pages of internal CIA records, including operational cables, internal memos, and interview transcripts.

General Hayden unfortunately has a long history of misleading the American public – he did it on domestic surveillance when he was the head of the NSA, and he did it on torture when he was the CIA Director. The best way to correct this culture of misinformation is to give the American people a chance to review the facts for themselves, and I’ll be working with my colleagues and the administration to ensure that happens quickly.

Mind you, Wyden focuses on Hayden’s lies to the American people.

But it’s as good a time as any to recall the lies Hayden told the Senate Intelligence Committee on April 12, 2007, when he said the following:

While FBI and CIA continued unsuccessfully to try to glean information from Abu Zubaydah using established US Government interrogation techniques, all of those involved were mindful that the perpetrators of the 11 September attacks were still at large and, according to available intelligence reportedly, were actively working to attack the US Homeland again. CIA also knew from its intelligence holdings that Abu Zubaydah was withholding information that could help us track down al-Qa’ida leaders and prevent attacks. As a result, CIA began to develop its own interrogation program, keeping in mind at all times that any new interrogation techniques must comply with US law and US international obligations under the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

A handful of techniques were developed for potential use; these techniques are effective, safe, and do not violate applicable US laws or treaty obligations. In August 2002, CIA began using these few and lawful interrogation techniques in the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. As stated by the President in his speech on 6 September 2006, “It became clear that he (Abu Zubaydah) had received training on how to resist interrogation. And so the CIA used an alternative set of procedures … the procedures were tough, and thy were safe, and lawful, and necessary.”

Prior to using any new technique on Abu Zubaydah, CIA sought and obtained from the Department of Justice an opinion confirming that none of these new techniques violated US statutes prohibiting torture or US obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture.

As CIA’s efforts to implement these authorities got underway in 2002, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, the Speaker and the minority leader of the House, and the chairs and ranking members of the intelligence committees were fully briefed on the interrogation procedures.

After the use of these techniques, Abu Zubaydah became one of our most important sources of intelligence on al-Qa’ida. [my emphasis]

The lies here include:

  • FBI was successful at getting intelligence from Abu Zubaydah
  • CIA never considered the Convention against Torture until after the CIA IG Report in 2004
  • CIA knew Abu Zubaydah had lied under torture in the past
  • CIA did not receive DOJ authorization before starting the torture, which started before August 1
  • CIA used techniques outside those approved by DOJ
  • Only the Gang of Four got briefed on Abu Zubaydah’s torture, and even then they were not fully briefed until February 2003

It is highly likely that Hayden knew that most of these were lies, but for most I can’t prove that. I also doubt Zubaydah had information on the whereabouts of al Qaeda’s leadership.

But as I showed in this post, I can prove that he did know only the Gang of Four got briefed on torture.

That’s because the day before Hayden testified at the SSCI hearing, in a memo addressed to him entitled “Information for 12 April SSCI Hearing,” CIA laid out all the briefings they had done on torture and rendition. And CIA’s own records–records Hayden received the day before he made these statements in preparation for the hearing–show that:

  • Tom Daschle, Senate Majority Leader from the time the torture began until the end of 2002, and Minority Leader until the end of 2004, was never briefed on the torture program.
  • Trent Lott, Senate Minority Leader until the end of 2003, was never briefed on the torture program while in leadership (though as a member of SSCI, he was briefed on the torture program on March 15, 2006).
  • Denny Hastert, Speaker of the House through the end of 2006, was not briefed on any aspect of the program until July 1, 2005.
  • Dick Gephardt, House Minority Leader through the end of 2003 (and therefore, through the worst torture) was never briefed on the program.
  • Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader from 2005 until 2007 and Senate Majority Leader thereafter, was not briefed until September 6, 2006, when Bush made the program public.
  • Though Nancy Pelosi had an (incomplete) briefing as House Intelligence Ranking Member in 2002, she did not have a briefing as House Minority Leader.
  • Just Bill Frist, who was first briefed in July 2004, seven months after he took over as Senate Majority Leader, was briefed in timely fashion at all.

The Intelligence Committee heads were briefed, however inadequately. But with the exception of Bill Frist, the CIA barely briefed Congressional Leadership at all.

I had forgotten how blatantly Hayden lied, in what would have been one of the earliest briefings for the full Committee after they first got read into the program.

But it’s clear he did lie. And he lied about information he had just been informed was a lie.

No wonder Hayden seems so desperate to defend his own manhood at this time.

He’s about to be exposed.

Update: While we’re talking about Michael Hayden lies, here’s my new favorite NSA lie, when he had Paul Wolfowitz tell Colleen Kollar-Kotelly that NSA wasn’t collecting content-as-metadata in the Internet dragnet program when they actually were.

The Court had specifically directed the government to explain whether this unauthorized collection involved the acquisition of information other than the approved Categories [redacted] Order at 7. In response, the Deputy Secretary of Defense [Paul Wolfowitz] stated that the “Director of NSA [Michael Hayden] has informed me that at no time did NSA collect any category of information … other than the [redacted] categories of meta data” approved in the [redacted] Opinion, but also note that NSA’s Inspector General [Joel Brenner] had not completed his assessment of this issue. [redacted] Decl. at 21.13 As discussed below, this assurance turned out to be untrue.

13 At a hearing on [redacted] Judge Kollar-Kotelly referred to this portion of the Deputy Secretary’s declaration and asked: “Can we conclude that there wasn’t content here?” [redacted] of NSA, replied, “There is not the physical possibility of our having [redacted] [my emphasis]

Thanks to Dianne Feinstein and Mark Udall for Seeing Torture Report Through

The Senate Intelligence Committee just voted 11-3 to release the torture report, with 3 ardent GOP critics voting to release the report.

McClatchy (as it has had throughout recent debates over this) has good coverage, including two new details:

  • CIA illegally detained 26 of 119 detainees (this may refer to CIA’s practice of ghosting detainees, and removing some illegally from Iraq, as well as the mistaken detention of people like Khalid el-Masri).
  • “The news media were manipulated with leaks that tended to blunt criticism of the agency.” (We knew that, but glad to see SSCI agrees).

A lot of people on the Senate Intelligence Committee deserve credit for making this happen. It started, after all, under Jay Rockefeller’s tenure.

But Dianne Feinstein and Mark Udall deserve particular attention. Feinstein persisted in this through a lot of opposition from Republicans on the committee. And she oversaw a great deal of work to get it done.

Her statement read, in part,

The report also points to major problems with CIA’s management of this program and its interactions with the White House, other parts of the executive branch and Congress. This is also deeply troubling and shows why oversight of intelligence agencies in a democratic nation is so important.

The release of this summary and conclusions in the near future shows that this nation admits its errors, as painful as they may be, and seeks to learn from them. It is now abundantly clear that, in an effort to prevent further terrorist attacks after 9/11 and bring those responsible to justice, the CIA made serious mistakes that haunt us to this day. We are acknowledging those mistakes, and we have a continuing responsibility to make sure nothing like this ever occurs again.

While I’m not satisfied simply with admitting error — democracy can’t work when rule of law doesn’t — she’s right that the intel agencies need adequate oversight.

Mark Udall, in the last year, has also made the report a particular focus, particularly with his relentless pressure on the White House, even in a tough reelection year. He repeated that pressure in his statement on the release.

“Following today’s historic vote, the president faces what I believe should be a straightforward question. He can defer declassification decisions to the CIA — which has demonstrated an inability to face the truth about this program — or pass this authority to the Director of National Intelligence or hold on to the redaction pen himself,” Udall added. “The president needs to understand that the CIA’s clear conflict of interest here requires that the White House step in and manage this process.”

Let’s hope Feinstein, Udall, and others persist in their efforts to fight back on what is sure to be CIA criticism of the report.

Update: As I noted earlier, Richard Burr was a yes vote, along with Saxby Chambliss and one other Republican in addition to Collins. Tom Coburn voted “present.”

How the Torture Report Declassification Is Likely to Work

Aspiring Senate Intelligence Chair Richard Burr has announced he will vote to declassify the Torture Report.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., also said he planned to vote to declassify.

[snip]

Burr added: “We’ve already expressed our opposition to the content.”

Declassifying, he said, is “the only way that we get minority views out there,” because the Republicans plan to offer their views on the report.

This gives a pretty strong indication of where this Torture Report debate will go — and why CIA got so quiet all of a sudden, aside from former CIA lawyer John Rizzo’s tireless propaganda efforts.

The Committee would have published dissenting views in any case, but Republican Susan Collins specifically included them in her support for the report.

What we’re going to get will be the Executive Summary, Findings, and Additional and Dissenting Views. Because we’ll get just the Executive Summary, we won’t get much hard detail — aside from that which has been public for years — about the allegations that will appear in the Executive Summary, which will make it harder to rebut any claims CIA’s defenders make.

Moreover, I would not be in the least surprised if the same rule that applies to CIA Publication Review Board decisions — that the writings of torture critics like Ali Soufan and Glenn Carle are aggressively censored, while the views of torture boosters like Rizzo and Jose Rodriguez will be permissively published — applied here. The CIA has — as McClatchy emphasizes — already assumed they’ll do the declassification review. And in spite of calls for the White House to take the lead, I expect they won’t. After all, the White House has relied on CIA to hide the Executive Privilege-lite documents (which I suspect would show that CIA only lied to some people at the White House, but not to people like David Addington). So CIA is owed something by the White House.

That mutual embrace of incrimination will provide the CIA a great deal of protection.

Remember, too, that torture critics have gotten recent warnings not to speak publicly, even while Rodriguez and Rizzo blather away.

And all this — what will surely be calls that Democrats have unfairly tainted noble Jose Rodriguez’ reputation — will play out against electoral politics, as Republicans try to take out Mark Udall for his opposition to torture.

Thus far, too, the torture boosters have laid the groundwork to win this debate. Even ignoring Rizzo and Rodriguez’ books, they’ve been working the press with details, as compared to the vague releases that the Torture Report will find CIA lied.

Which is my pessimistic way of saying that unless torture critics get a lot more serious about the propaganda onslaught the Republicans plan to launch to defend torture, this Torture Report release may not do all that much good at all. Torture critics largely lost this debate in 2009, and they’ll actually have less new information with which to fight this if CIA gets its way on declassification.

James Clapper Continues to Cover Up FBI’s Back Door Searches on US Targets

Screen shot 2014-04-02 at 12.37.27 PMIn their stories catching up to my past reporting on the Semiannual Compliance Report‘s discussion of backdoor searches, the Guardian and NYT focus on NSA and (in the case of the NYT) CIA. Neither mentions that the FBI also does such back door searches, and has had the authority to do so longer than the foreign intelligence agencies.

That may be because Ron Wyden always focuses on the NSA, and as a result James Clapper mentioned the NSA in his letter to Wyden.

The public record makes clear that FBI has this authority. A footnote to one of the paragraphs describing oversight over NSA and CIA’s back door searches explains that “FBI’s minimization procedures had already provided that agency the ability,” followed by redacted descriptions.

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When Bates approved back door searches in his October 3, 2011 opinion, he pointed to FBI’s earlier (and broader) authorities to justify approving it for NSA and CIA. While the mention of FBI is redacted here, at that point it was the only other agency whose minimization procedures had to be approved by FISC, and FBI is the agency that applies for traditional FISA warrants.

[redacted] contain an analogous provision allowing queries of unminimized FISA-acquired information using identifiers — including United States-person identifiers — when such queries are designed to yield foreign intelligence information. See [redacted]. In granting [redacted] applications for electronic surveillance or physical search since 2008, including applications targeting United States persons and persons in the United States, the Court has found that the [redacted] meet the definitions of minimization procedures at 50 U.S.C. §§ 1801(h) and 1821(4). It follows that the substantially-similar querying provision found at Section 3(b)(5) of the amended NSA minimization procedures should not be problematic in a collection that is focused on non-United States persons located outside the United States and that, in aggregate, is less likely to result in the acquisition of nonpublic information regarding non-consenting United States persons.

So since 2008, FBI has had the ability to do back door searches on all the FISA-authorized data they get, including taps targeting US persons.

When I saw ODNI’s tweets (above) admitting to back door searches, I realized that ODNI treated classification of FBI’s back door searches differently than it did CIA and NSA’s. In addition to the redactions in the footnote above, it also redacted its description of the review of FBI’s back door searches.

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 2.08.52 PM

Indeed, Clapper’s letter only admits to back door searches of data collected on foreign targets, not American ones.

As reflected in the August 2013 Semiannual Assessment of Compliance with Procedures and Guidelines Issued Pursuant to Section 702, which we declassified and released on August 21, 2013, there have been queries, using U.S. person identifiers, of communications lawfully acquired to obtain foreign intelligence by targeting non U.S. persons reasonably believed to be located outside the U.S. pursuant to Section 702 of FISA.

Yet Bates makes it clear (even though the reference to FBI is redacted) that FBI can even back door search data collected in the United States on US persons.

Given how little we know about back door searches, it’s hard to know which is worse. As Bates notes, there will likely be more Americans’ records accessible via a back door search off an American target. But at least in that case, FISC has found there is probable cause to believe the target is a foreign agent or terrorist. Under Section 702, the Agencies can collect data on people without that same level of proof, and do so in much greater volume. Certainly, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall seem primarily concerned about the Section 702 targeting (which includes the FBI, as the Compliance report makes clear).

Still, Clapper’s greater secrecy about FBI’s back door searches makes me worried they are in some way even worse.

James Clapper Confirms VADM Mike Rogers Needlessly Obfuscated in Confirmation Hearing

On Friday, James Clapper finally provided Ron Wyden an unclassified response to a question he posed on January 29, admitting that the NSA conducts back door searches. (via Charlie Savage)

As reflected in the August 2013 Semiannual Assessment of Compliance with Procedures and Guidelines Issued Pursuant to Section 702, which we declassified and released on August 21, 2013, there have been queries, using U.S. person identifiers, of communications lawfully acquired to obtain foreign intelligence by targeting non U.S. persons reasonably believed to be located outside the U.S. pursuant to Section 702 of FISA.

It has taken just 9 months for Clapper to admit that, contrary to months of denials, the NSA (and FBI, which he doesn’t confirm but which the Report makes clear, as well as the CIA) can get the content of Americans’ communications without a warrant. But Clapper’s admission that this fact was declassified in August should disqualify Vice Admiral Mike Rogers from confirmation as CyberComm head (I believe he started serving as DIRNSA head, which doesn’t require confirmation, yesterday). Because it means Rogers refused to answer a question the response to which was already declassified.

Udall: If I might, in looking ahead, I want to turn to the 702 program and ask a policy question about the authorities under Section 702 that’s written into the FISA Amendments Act. The Committee asked your understanding of the legal rationale for NASA [sic] to search through data acquired under Section 702 using US person identifiers without probable cause. You replied the NASA–the NSA’s court approved procedures only permit searches of this lawfully acquired data using US person identifiers for valid foreign intelligence purposes and under the oversight of the Justice Department and the DNI. The statute’s written to anticipate the incidental collection of Americans’ communications in the course of collecting the communications of foreigners reasonably believed to be located overseas. But the focus of that collection is clearly intended to be foreigners’ communications, not Americans. But declassified court documents show that in 2011 the NSA sought and obtained the authority to go through communications collected under Section 702 and conduct warrantless searches for the communications of specific Americans. Now, my question is simple. Have any of those searches been conducted? Rogers: I apologize Sir, I’m not in a position to answer that as the nominee. Udall: You–yes. Rogers: But if you would like me to come back to you in the future if confirmed to be able to specifically address that question I will be glad to do so, Sir. Udall: Let me follow up on that. You may recall that Director Clapper was asked this question in a hearing earlier this year and he didn’t believe that an open forum was the appropriate setting in which to discuss these issues. The problem that I have, Senator Wyden’s had, and others is that we’ve tried in various ways to get an unclassified answer — simple answer, yes or no — to the question. We want to have an answer because it relates — the answer does — to Americans’ privacy. Can you commit to answering the question before the Committee votes on your nomination? Rogers: Sir, I believe that one of my challenges as the Director, if confirmed, is how do we engage the American people — and by extension their representatives — in a dialogue in which they have a level of comfort as to what we are doing and why. That is no insignificant challenge for those of us with an intelligence background, to be honest. But I believe that one of the takeaways from the situation over the last few months has been as an intelligence professional, as a senior intelligence leader, I have to be capable of communicating in a way that we are doing and why to the greatest extent possible. That perhaps the compromise is, if it comes to the how we do things, and the specifics, those are perhaps best addressed in classified sessions, but that one of my challenges is I have to be able to speak in broad terms in a way that most people can understand. And I look forward to that challenge. Udall: I’m going to continue asking that question and I look forward to working with you to rebuild the confidence. [my emphasis]

I assume that now that Clapper has given him the okay to discuss unclassified topics with Congress, Rogers will now provide a forthright answer, all the while claiming he was ignorant about the answer at the time (fine! then make me DIRNSA because I know more about it!). But Rogers’ response went far beyond such an answer. He refused — not just in the hearing but even after it — to commit to answering a question with a completely unclassified answer. And as I pointed out in this post, his written answers were even more obfuscatory. I don’t get a vote. But I think this should disqualify him as a nominee.

Update: Here’s the exchange in Rogers’ questions for the record on back door searches.

What is your understanding of the legal rationale for NSA to search through data acquired under section 702 using U.S. Persons identifiers without probable cause?

Information acquired by NSA under Section 702 of FI SA must be handled in strict accordance with minimization procedures adopted by the Attorney General and approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. As required by the statute and certifications approving Section 702 acquisitions, such activities must be limite d to targeting non-U.S. persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States . NSA’s Court-approved procedures only permit searches of this lawfully acquired data using U.S. person identifiers for valid foreign intelligence purposes and under the oversight of the Department of Justice and Office of Director of National Intelligence.

RuppRogers Fake Dragnet Fix Would End (?) Bulk Firearm Record Collection, But Not Bulk Credit Card Record Collection

I’m just beginning to go through the House Intelligence Fake Dragnet Fix bill — what I will henceforth call the RuppRogers Fake Dragnet Fix.

It does have some improvements — the kind of bones you throw into a legislation to entice members of Congress to back what is in fact a broad expansion of surveillance.

One of those is a prohibition on the use of FISA (presumably including Section 215) to engage in bulk collection of certain kinds of records:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Federal Government may not acquire under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) library circulation records, library patron lists, book sales records, book customer lists, firearm sales records, tax return records, education records, or medical records containing information that would identify a person without the use of specific identifiers or selection terms.

I find this interesting, for one, because it is yet another piece of evidence that suggests the government has been using Section 215 (and National Security Letters, probably) to make its own firearm registry, in defiance of congressional intent.

But I also find it instructive to compare this list:

  • Some but not all library and book records
  • Firearm sales records
  • Tax return (but not other tax) records
  • Education records
  • Some but not all medical records

With the list laid out in this letter from Ron Wyden and Mark Udall and others.

  • Credit card purchases
  • Pharmacy records
  • Library records
  • Firearm sales records
  • Financial information
  • Book and movie purchase records

I would assume from the difference that NSA was unwilling to give up certain kinds of bulk collection, notably credit card and non-tax return financial records.

I think the use of Section 215 to collect gun records is patently illegal, even though I might support a gun registry if passed legislatively. But if we’re going to roll back that collection, let’s roll back the bulk financial record collection as well.

In Describing CIA’s Attempted Intimidiation of Senate Intelligence Committee, Harry Reid Uses the Word “Unprecedented” Too

Back when Mark Udall first hinted about the CIA’s efforts to intimidate the Senate Intelligence Committee, he said CIA had taken “unprecedented action.”

That’s language Harry Reid repeats in a letter to John Brennan informing him that the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms will conduct a forensic review of the SSCI computers.

You are no doubt aware of the grave and unprecedented concerns with regards to constitutional separation of powers this action raises.

The language Reid uses in a letter to Eric Holder is even stronger.

As Majority Leader of the Senate, I have a responsibility to protect the independence and effectiveness of our institution. The CIA’s decision to access the resources and work product of the legislative branch without permission is absolutely indefensible, regardless of the context. This action has serious separation of powers implications. It is immaterial whether this action was taken in response to concerns about the Committee’s possession of a disputed document; this stands as a categorically different and more serious breach.

[snip]

In my capacity as the leader of the U.S. Senate, the CIA’s actions cause me great concern. The CIA has not only interfered with the lawful congressional oversight of its activities, but has also seemingly attempted to intimidate its overseers by subjecting them to criminal investigation. These developments strike at the heart of the constitutional separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches. Left unchallenged, they call into question Congress’s ability to carry out its core constitutional duties and risk the possibility of an unaccountable Intelligence Community run amok. The CIA cannot be permitted to undermine Congress’s ability to serve as an effective check on executive power as our nation’s Founders intended.

For all the talk of interbranch conflict, however, the letter to Brennan includes hints of partisan conflict. He asks Brennan to keep his staffers away from Senate staffers except the Sergeant-at-Arms.

To ensure its [the Sergeant-at-Arms review] independence, I ask that you take whatever steps necessary to ensure that CIA personnel refrain from further interaction relating to this issue with Senate staff other than the Segeant-at-Arms staff conducting the examination while the examination is underway.

This suggests there has been such contact. And there’s no reason to believe anyone from the Democratic side would be working back channel with Brennan’s spooks.

As I noted last week, the Republicans — especially Richard Burr, who would become Intelligence Chair if Republicans retake the Senate — have been going after Mark Udall aggressively. In the interim we’ve seen fairly obvious hit jobs that use the CIA-SSCI dispute to focus on Udall’s electoral prospects in November.

So while I believe everything Reid says about separation of powers — while I believe he regards this as an unprecedented threat to separation of powers — this also reeks of an attempt to prevent the collaboration of Republicans and the CIA.

We’ll see whether it has the other probable goal: giving DOJ an easy way to back out of any entanglement in this dispute.

Did CIA’s Handsomely Paid Contractors Doctor Its Log Books, Again?

I wanted to return to one other detail of John Brennan’s (designed to be made public, I believe) January 27 letter to Dianne Feinstein explaining the urgent need to continue the “investigative, protective, or intelligence activity” targeted at CIA’s overseers.

In the letter, Brennan describes the original basis for CIA’s claimed suspicion into SSCI this way:

CIA maintains a log of all materials provided to the Committee through established protocols, and these documents do not appear in that log, nor were they found in an audit of CIA’s side of the system for all materials provided to SSCI through established protocols. Because we were concerned that there may be a breach or vulnerability in the system for housing highly classified documents, CIA conducted a limited review to determine whether these files were located on the SSCI side of the CIA network and review audit data to determine whether anyone had access the files. [my emphasis]

The original basis CIA used to justify investigating their overseers was a log purportedly recording which documents they had been given.

Recall that CIA worked with contractors — SAIC, as I understand it — to review and re-review each document before they turned it over to SSCI.

CIA insisted that the Committee review documents at a government building in Virginia. Once the CIA produced relevant documents related to the CIA detention and interrogation program, the CIA then insisted that CIA personnel—and private contractors employed by the CIA—review each document multiple times to ensure unrelated documents were not provided to a small number of fully cleared Committee staff.

This process accounts for much of the $44 million cost of the report.

The log must have come out of this process: contractors, being paid handsomely by the CIA to slow the investigation, recording each document that they claimed to hand over to investigators.

So at the base of Brennan’s claim is a log, made by self-interested contractors employed by CIA, about torture.

The CIA’s contractors don’t have a very reliable history recording issues relating to torture.

Recall that — contrary to much of the public reporting on the matter — the destruction of the torture tapes did not just destroy ugly images of torture inflicted on Abu Zubaydah.

In addition, by destroying the torture tapes, CIA destroyed evidence that:

  • The CIA’s contractors used torture on Abu Zubaydah that exceeded the guidelines provided by DOJ
  • The CIA’s contractors’ descriptions of those torture techniques — in written cables and logs — did not match what they had actually done to Abu Zubaydah
  • By the time CIA shut down the Thai black site and decided to stop taping their torture, someone (the CIA’s contractors?) had already destroyed or sabotaged a number of the torture tapes, including ones depicting waterboarding

That is, one of the likely reasons why CIA destroyed the torture tapes is that their handsomely paid self-interested contractors produced a substantively inaccurate log about torture.

And at the base of the CIA’s witch hunt into SSCI staffers is a log about torture presumably made by handsomely paid self-interested contractors.

John Brennan’s Parallel “Investigative, Protective, or Intelligence Activity”

Yesterday, Jack Goldsmith defended CIA lawyer Robert Eatinger for referring Senate Intelligence Committee staffers for criminal investigation. Eatinger had no choice but to refer his Agency’s overseers, you see, because EO 12333 required it.

I knew Eatinger a bit when I was at OLC a decade ago, and based on that experience I agree with John Rizzo that “[h]e doesn’t have a political bone in his body” and “[i]f he made this referral, it’s because he felt it was the right and necessary thing to do.”

It might be useful to articulate the standard for the “right and necessary thing to do,” because I think that standard is at the bottom of this corner of the controversy.  The standard comes from Section 6.1(b) of E.O. 12,333, which imposes a duty on the CIA Director to:

Report to the Attorney General possible violations of Federal criminal laws by employees and of specified Federal criminal laws by any other person as provided in procedures agreed upon by the Attorney General and the head of the department, agency, or establishment concerned, in a manner consistent with the protection of intelligence sources and methods, as specified in those procedures;

I believe that the CIA Director delegates this duty to the CIA General Counsel.

Note how low the bar is for the referral—possible violations of federal law.  Think about what that low standard means.  It means that CIA often has a duty to refer a matter to DOJ that it is reasonably confident does not violate federal law, simply because the matter possibly violates federal law.  As John Radsan noted in his study of the CIA General Counsel’s Office, the low standard results in CIA making “several referrals to the Justice Department in a typical month.”  It might seem that these frequent referrals are signs of lawlessness, but in fact they are a mechanism of accountability. The very soft trigger of “possible” as opposed to “likely” or “actual” violations promotes significant over-reporting and allows another Agency, DOJ, to decide the appropriate action in the first instance.” [my emphasis]

Nice try.

But there’s a significant problem with that. In response to Ron Wyden’s question about whether CIA is subject to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act — a polite way of suggesting CIA hacked the Committee server — John Brennan told Wyden,

The statute does apply. The Act, however, expressly “does not prohibit any lawfully authorized investigative, protective, or intelligence activity … of an intelligence agency of the United States.” 18 U.S.C. § 1030(f).

In other words, Brennan implicitly asserts the CIA snooping on SSCI was legal because CIA was engaged in lawfully authorized “investigative, protective, or intelligence activity.”

Side note: what are the chances that Brennan, who likes to remind that he’s not a lawyer when he gets legally dangerous questions, consulted with CIA’s Acting General Counsel Robert Eatinger in crafting this response to Wyden?

But let’s look at when and how Brennan chose to engage in what he claims is either “investigative, protective, or intelligence activity” and when and how Eatinger found SSCI’s oversight of CIA reached the “low bar” that merited referral.

Continue reading

Caroline Krass Confirmed as CIA General Counsel in Landslide Vote

In the background of the fight between CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee lurked the nomination of Caroline Krass.

Mark Udall had said that he would hold her nomination to get some answers on the Torture Report.

But she just got confirmed with just a few more no votes –4 — than the 2 she got from the Committee. Dianne Feinstein, Ron Wyden, Martin Heinrich, Mark Udall all voted yes.

This was predictable. As I pointed out the other day, the alternative to quickly confirming Krass was leaving Robert Eatinger — the guy who launched a witch hunt into Committee staffers — Acting Counsel at CIA. Even a mediocre candidate would be preferable to that, for Committee Democrats, and by all reports and appearances Krass is a very sharp and candid lawyer.

That said, in addition to seeking leverage over the Torture Report dispute, Committee members had expressed concern that Krass explicitly endorsed withholding privileged documents from the oversight Committee. So by rushing through Krass’ nomination, the Senate waived any opportunity to obtain some commitment for greater sharing with the Senate.

And thus it happens that, in response to an intolerable situation concocted by Article II, Article I pisses away even more of its authority.

Update: Here’s Udall’s statement on Krass.

Udall, a member of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released his procedural hold today on the nomination of Caroline Krass to be the CIA’s general counsel, citing the conflict of interest of the acting-general counsel, as well as a firm and clear commitment by the president to declassify the committee’s landmark report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program.

“We need to correct the record on the CIA’s coercive detention and interrogation program and declassify the Senate Intelligence Committee’s exhaustive study of it. I released my hold on Caroline Krass’s nomination today and voted for her to help change the direction of the agency,” Udall said. “The president has stated an unequivocal commitment to supporting the declassification of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report. Coloradans expect me to hold him to his word.”

 

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Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz Obama White House Sponsors Young and Rich Narcissistic 1% Fucktards That Will Ruin the World One Day http://t.co/XhEZdHp3yO Seriously
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bmaz @dceiver @ryangrim @HuffPostLive Lotta repetitive emphasis there. Is this like "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy" from The Shining?
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bmaz Now plattered: Ten Years After Undead (a new copy cause my old one was totally dead).
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bmaz @FrancisJeffrey7 @MarkSZaidEsq @Thomas_Drake1 @TimmyTokyo1 Not quite sure what to make of that, can you rephrase?
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bmaz @JasonLeopold @laRosalind @phillipanderson If you did not get my Allman's, you are DEAD to me! (currently rolling vintage Dave Mason)
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bmaz @laRosalind @JasonLeopold Talking to some people, seems most shops got only a few copies of the big releases, at best. All gone VERY early.
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bmaz @laRosalind @JasonLeopold @phillipanderson Got some killer stuff. But+Im not kidding, Johnny Rivers Live at Whisky A Go Go currently rocking
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bmaz Obama White House Sponsors Young and Rich Narcissistic 1% Fucktards That Will Ruin the World http://t.co/XhEZdHp3yO
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bmaz @PhilPerspective @phillipanderson @JasonLeopold that ain't camping, that's just front porch drinking.
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bmaz @JasonLeopold @phillipanderson Get the fuck out and buy me the Allman's Beacon deal. Or I will keeel you.
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