Tom Coburn

The “McCain Committee” Would Be Full of NSA Defenders

Imagine a McCain Committee as the inheritor of the tradition of Frank Church and Otis Pike.

(Yes, I did that to make bmaz’ head explode.)

That seems to be what John McCain intends with his resolution calling for a Committee to Investigate the Dragnet. (h/t Steven Aftergood)

Only, McCain proposes to investigate not just whether NSA has engaged in things it was not authorized to do. But also to investigate Snowden’s leaks themselves and the potential role of contractors in making leaks more likely.

All that said, I might be excited about McCain’s proposal to review the dragnet, as described:

(3) The nature and scope of National Security Agency intelligence-collection programs, operations, and activities, including intelligence-collection programs affecting Americans, that were the subject matter of the unauthorized disclosure, including–

(A) the extent of domestic surveillance authorized by law;

(B) the legal authority that served as the basis for the National Security Agency intelligence-collection programs, operations, and activities that are the subject matter of those disclosures;

(C) the extent to which such programs, operations, and activities that were the subject matter of such unauthorized disclosures may have gone beyond what was authorized by law or permitted under the Constitution of the United States;

(D) the extent and sufficiency of oversight of such programs, operations, and activities by Congress and the Executive Branch; and

(E) the need for greater transparency and more effective congressional oversight of intelligence community activities.

There’s just one problem with McCain’s proposal.

Here’s the list of the people who would be on the Committee (he provides titles, I’m providing names):

  • Diane Feinstein
  • Saxby Chambliss
  • Carl Levin
  • Jim Inhofe
  • Tom Carper
  • Tom Coburn
  • Robert Menendez
  • Bob Corker
  • Pat Leahy
  • Chuck Grassley
  • Jello Jay Rockefeller
  • John Thune
  • A Harry Reid pick
  • A Mitch McConnell pick

There are a number of very big NSA defenders on this list — in addition to DiFi and Saxby, both Jello Jay and Coburn are Intel Committee members who have never questioned the dragnet (indeed, Coburn has called for getting rid of the controls on the phone dragnet!). Chuck Grassley, too, has generally been supportive of the dragnet in SJC hearings on the subject. Most of the rest are simply not the caliber of people who might critically assess the dragnet much less show real interest in Americans’ privacy. Only Carl Levin and Pat Leahy, alone among the 12 named members, have been explicitly skeptical of the dragnet at all.

McCain proposes a Select Committee to investigate the dragnet. And he proposes to fill it with people who are really happy with the dragnet as it currently exists.

Update: Just to give a sense of how terrible this make-up for a Select Committee is, compare it with the bipartisan list of 26 Senators who asked James Clapper for more information on other uses of Section 215 last June. Just one Senator from that list — Pat Leahy — would be on McCain’s committee.

Update: Haha! Via Matt Sledge, DiFi shot McCain’s idea down pretty quickly.

Robert Mueller’s Claims to Be Ignorant about Geolocation Probably Bullshit

As I laid out in this Guardian column on today’s House Judiciary Committee hearing, after citing Smith v. Maryland a bunch of times to justify getting all Americans’ phone records, FBI Director Robert Mueller went on to pretend not to know whether those records include geolocation.

New York Representative Jerry Nadler wasn’t convinced Mueller’s excuse was good enough. He noted that metadata includes so much more information than it did in 1979, and that that earlier ruling might not stand in this case. Utah’s Jason Chaffetz got much more specific about the difference between phones in 1979 and now: location.

Landlines include location information. But with cell phones, the same location information necessary to route a call effectively provides a rough idea of where a person is even as they move from place to place (map functions on smart phones, as well as a lot of applications, rely on this data). Thus, the geolocation available as part of cell phone metadata provides a much better idea of where a person goes and what they do than location data for a landline tied to a person’s address.

Chaffetz posed several questions that, he revealed, he had sent Mueller Wednesday so that he would be prepared to answer, starting with whether or not geolocation is part of this metadata collection. In spite of Chaffetz’s prior warning, Mueller said he did not know whether it was included.

Note that the order to Verizon the Guardian publishedspecifically includes routing information in its description of metadata, which gets to geolocation. It’s clear this collection includes geolocation.

Mueller was also unprepared to answer whether or not a different supreme court case from last year, US v Jones, which determined that installing a GPS tracking device on a suspect’s car constituted a search, meant that the geolocation provided by the GPS function on cell phones did not qualify as metadata. Mueller was also unprepared to answer whether tracking someone’s location by using their phone constituted metadata.

In fact, Mueller admitted his staffers had told him he’d be asked these questions – yet still hadn’t prepared. It seemed almost as if his inability to answer this question in public was intentional.

As I suggested, Mueller’s feigned ignorance was probably intentional.

Moreover, his professed ignorance about whether the phone records include location is probably bullshit. That’s true, as I noted, because the order in question includes routing information, which in the case of cell phones, includes tower location which is location.

And remember, according to Tom Coburn, the FBI Director’s role in approving this process is so central, Coburn was worried that legal challenges to Mueller’s two-year extension might put the entire dragnet program at risk. So it’s hard to believe all this time Mueller has been personally vouching for orders like the one to Verizon that ask explicitly for routing information without knowing he was asking for routing information.

Here’s the other reason I think Mueller is telling a least untruth that is too cute by half when he claims ignorance.

Shortly after the US v. Jones ruling, Ron Wyden asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to what degree Jones affected the intelligence community. He even invoked “secret law,” the way he always has done when referring to this dragnet program(s).

Wyden: Director Clapper, as you know the Supreme Court ruled last week that it was unconstitutional for federal agents to attach a GPS tracking device to an individual’s car and monitor their movements 24/7 without a warrant. Because the Chair was being very gracious, I want to do this briefly. Can you tell me as of now what you believe this means for the intelligence community, number 1, and 2, would you be willing to commit this morning to giving me an unclassified response with respect to what you believe the law authorizes. This goes to the point that you and I have talked, Sir, about in the past, the question of secret law, I strongly feel that the laws and their interpretations must be public. Continue reading

Is Robert Mueller, a Purported Hero of the Hospital Confrontation, Responsible for Section 215 Use?

On March 23, 2004 at noon, less than two weeks after the dramatic hospital confrontation and threats to quit reportedly got the Administration to agree to stop data mining Americans, FBI Director Robert Mueller had a meeting with Dick Cheney, at the Vice President’s request, in the Vice President’s office. In his notes, Mueller doesn’t describe what the VIce President wanted, nor am I aware that it has even been reported in the press.

The next day, the Chief Division Counsel of some Division of the FBI wrote a memo to the FBI General Counsel noting that FBI was using a “new standard” with Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act and indicating that a “recent decision” had been made to bypass the review of the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review on Section 215 applications.

In part, the apparent decision to bypass OIPR, which had rejected the premise of the previous Section 215 orders FBI had submitted in the past, reflected no more than a concerted effort on FBI’s part to make sure it could start using all the PATRIOT authorities it had been granted in 2001 in anticipation of renewal discussions that would take place the following year. Yet the timing of this change is particularly curious, given that we now know Section 215 has been used to collect data that could be used for data mining Americans, precisely the problem that had caused the hospital confrontation 12 days earlier.

At the very least, however, it shows that sometime around the same time as Jim Comey and others at DOJ tried to stop the data mining of Americans under NSA’s illegal program, FBI claimed to have eliminated one review step for Section 215 orders and changed the standard used for them. That reference notwithstanding, DOJ Inspector General at least reported that OIPR continued to have a role. (Note, the office that got cut out of the process, OIPR, is where one of the key whistleblowers on the illegal program, Thomas Tamm worked, though I have asked him if he knew whether they used Section 215 to accomplish the same program and he didn’t know anything about it.)

On May 21, 2004, just as the the confrontation was settling down, FBI got its first Section 215 order approved. MIRACLES! the memo subject line read. “We got our first business record order signed today. It only took two and a half years.”

Now, at least some of the people commenting publicly on the confirmation that Section 215 has been used to compile a database recording details on all calls Americans make say Section 215 has supported that purpose only since 2006. Dianne Feinstein, for example, says the practice has gone on for 7 years.

As far as I know, this is the exact three month renewal of what has been the case for the past seven years. This renewal is carried out by the FISA Court under the business records section of the Patriot Act. Therefore, it is lawful.

Seven years would put its start almost exactly at the March 9, 2006 renewal of the PATRIOT Act, which added new language on Section 215 in the wake of the December 15, 2005 exposure of Bush’s illegal wiretap program. In discussions of this collection program since last week, it has generally been accepted that’s when it all started.

Curiously (particularly given his insistence that PRISM only started in 2008, slides to the contrary notwithstanding), James Clapper made no claims about precisely when this practice started.

The Patriot Act was signed into law in October 2001 and included authority to compel production of business records and other tangible things relevant to an authorized national security investigation with the approval of the FISC. This provision has subsequently been reauthorized over the course of two Administrations – in 2006 and in 2011. It has been an important investigative tool that has been used over the course of two Administrations, with the authorization and oversight of the FISC and the Congress.

It is possible that this program was conducted under a different PATRIOT provision (such as the Pen Register ones) prior to 2006; in fact, Clapper never mentions the term “Section 215″ in his purported clarification of the program.

Now, consider one more detail. In a statement before the 2009 debate on PATRIOT Act reauthorization focusing closely on Section 215, Russ Feingold suggested that the debate over reauthorization in 2005, which led to purported initial use of Section 215 to conduct this dragnet, had been stymied by classification of how the PATRIOT had been implemented.

I remain concerned that critical information about the implementation of the Patriot Act has not been made public – information that I believe would have a significant impact on the debate. During the debate on the Protect America Act and the FISA Amendments Acts in 2007 and 2008, critical legal and factual information remained unknown to the public and to most members of Congress – information that was certainly relevant to the debate and might even have made a difference in votes. And during the last Patriot Act reauthorization debate in 2005, a great deal of implementation information remained classified.

[snip]

But there also is information about the use of Section 215 orders that I believe Congress and the American people deserve to know. I do not underestimate the importance of protecting our national security secrets. But before we decide whether and in what form to extend these authorities, Congress and the American people deserve to know at least basic information about how they have been used. So I hope that the administration will consider seriously making public some additional basic information, particularly with respect to the use of Section 215 orders.

There can be no question that statutory changes to our surveillance laws are necessary. Since the Patriot Act was first passed in 2001, we have learned important lessons, and perhaps the most important of all is that Congress cannot grant the government overly broad authorities and just keep its fingers crossed that they won’t be misused, or interpreted by aggressive executive branch lawyers in as broad a way as possible. [my emphasis]

This suggests the plan to use Section 215 may have been explicit in those classified debates.

Continue reading

Tamerlan Tsarnaev Placed in Database Perceived as Weak, Even by DHS

As the blame game starts on the Boston Marathon bombing, someone (maybe a blabby Senator?) made it public that the CIA asked to have Tamerlan Tsarnaev added to the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) database last year.

The CIA asked the main U.S. counterterrorism agency to add the name of one of the suspected Boston Marathon bombers to a watch list more than a year before the attack, according to U.S. officials.

The agency took the step after Russian authorities contacted officials there in the fall of 2011 and raised concerns that Tamerlan Tsarnaev — who was killed last week in a confrontation with police — was seen as an increasingly radical Islamist and could be planning to travel overseas. The CIA requested that his name be put on a database maintained by the National Counterterrorism Center.

That database, the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE, is a data storehouse that feeds a series of government watch lists, including the FBI’s main Terrorist Screening Database and the Transportation Security Administration’s “no-fly” list.

Officials said Tsarnaev’s name was added to the database but it’s unclear which agency added it.

We got a look at the TIDE database last year when Tom Coburn reviewed whether fusion centers do useful work. Here’s what that report said about TIDE:

While reporting information on an individual who is listed in the TIDE database sounds significant, the Subcommittee found that DHS officials tended to be skeptical about the value of such reporting, because of concerns about the quality of data contained in TIDE.156

156 Although NCTC describes its TIDE database as holding information on the identities of known and suspected terrorists, DHS officials – who interacted with TIDE data on a daily basis, as they reviewed reporting not only from state and local law enforcement encounters but from encounters by DHS components – said they found otherwise. “Not everything in TIDE is KST,” DHS privacy official Ken Hunt told the Subcommittee, using a shorthand term for “known or suspected terrorist.”

Would you buy a Ford?” one DHS Senior Reports Officer asked the Subcommittee staff during an interview, when he was asked how serious it was for someone to be a match to a TIDE record. “Ford Motor Company has a TIDE record.”

[snip]

Ole Broughton headed Intelligence Oversight at I&A from September 2007 to January 2012. In an interview with the Subcommittee, Mr. Broughton expressed the concern DHS intelligence officials felt working with TIDE data. In one instance, Mr. Broughton recalled he “saw an individual’s two-year-old son [identified] in an [Homeland Intelligence Report]. He had a TIDE record.” Mr. Broughton believed part of the problem was that intelligence officials had routinely put information on “associates” of known or suspected terrorists into TIDE, without determining that that person would qualify as a known or suspected terrorist. “We had a lot of discussion regarding ‘associates’ in TIDE,” Mr. Broughton said.

[my emphasis]

This is not to say that Tamerlan shouldn’t be in TIDE.

Rather, it says there’s so much other crap in TIDE, that it isn’t perceived as very useful — at least not by the people at DHS the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations interviewed.

This is the problem with overcollection of data: it adds a bunch more hay to the haystack for the time you want to start looking for a needle.

Tom Coburn Takes on the Zombie Apocalypse

I tell you, if Tom Coburn just stuck to shutting down the most egregious Homeland Security fearmongering boondoggle abuses rather than shutting down government itself, I might grow to love the man.

His latest effort (for which some of his staffers appear to have staged a very fun photo shoot) takes on the stupid things localities bought under the $7.1 billion Urban Area Security Initiative, which was originally intended to help likely terrorist targets (like NYC) prepare against an attack, but which turned into a big boondoggle for towns unlikely to be targeted.

The describes how Keene, NH (home of the Free State Project) tried to use a grant to buy its 40-cop police department–which has faced just one murder in the last two years–an armored vehicle to protect its annual pumpkin festival. Keene was not alone; the report has several pages dedicated to the graft Lenco Armored Vehicles has been conducting selling governments in Waukesha, WI and Santa Barbara, Carlsbad, Escondido, and Fontana, CA BearCats they have no need for using sole source bids.

The report attacks Pittsburgh for having bought an LRAD–which it used during the G-20–as “a kinder and gentler way to get people to leave.” It also describes how San Diego County used an LRAD to protect a speaking event with Darrell Issa, Duncan Hunter, and Susan Davis.

But the centerpiece of the report is the description of how first responders used grant money to attend a training session in a San Diego resort at which they were entertained by a Zombie Apocalypse simulation billed as “a very real exercise, this is not some type of big costume party.”

One notable training-related event that was deemed an allowable expense by DHS was the HALO Counter-Terrorism Summit 2012. Held at the Paradise Point Resort & Spa on an island outside San Diego, the 5-day summit was deemed an allowable expense by DHS, permitting first responders to use grant funds for the $1,000 entrance fee. Event organizers described the location for the training event as an island paradise: “the exotic beauty and lush grandeur of this unique island setting that creates a perfect backdrop for the HALO Counter-Terrorism Summit.

[snip]

The marquee event over the summit, however, was its highly-promoted “zombie apocalypse” demonstration. Continue reading

The Senate Report on Fusion Center Fails to Ask or Answer the Most Basic Question

As I suggested the other day, there is a lot to recommend the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report on fusion centers.

But while it meticulously supports its claims about the waste and inefficacy of fusion centers, it seems to miss what all that evidence suggests. That is that there is no need for fusion centers. The report clearly shows we have spent somewhere between $289 million and $1.4 billion to build a bunch of data sharing centers in the name of terrorism; yet in spite of the investment, the centers appear to never actually have contributed to finding a terrorist.

Fusion centers are supposed to be about counterterrorism

This is made clear in the way the report meticulously lays out the purported purpose of fusion centers, then measures how they fulfill that purpose.

The report notes two moments in DHS’ history when fusion centers were pointedly not authorized: the initial formation of DHS, the 9/11 Commission report. It notes that under Michael Chertoff, DHS aides were pushing for reasons to sell fusion centers to the Feds.

Mr. Riegle said that he did not believe that access to state and local information was really a principal reason for the federal government to support fusion centers, but it was part of the pitch. “It was a selling point to the Feds,” Mr. Riegle said. “I’ve got to tell them what the benefits are.”

Only in 2007, at a time when there were already 37 fusion centers, many in states not likely to be targeted by foreign terrorism, did Congress specifically authorize fusion centers. At that time, Congress emphasized the fusion centers’ counterterrorism function.

The law also directed DHS to detail intelligence personnel to the centers if the centers met certain criteria, several of which required a center to demonstrate a focus on and commitment to a counterterrorism mission. Among the criteria the law suggested were “whether the fusion center . . . focuses on a broad counterterror approach,” whether the center has sufficient personnel “to support a broad counterterrorism mission,” and whether the center is appropriately funded by non-federal sources “to support its counterterrorism mission.”

Fusion centers have not found any terrorists

And on that basis, fusion centers have failed.

The value of fusion centers to the federal government should be determined by tallying the cost of its investment, and the results obtained. Continue reading

C Street Takes Care of The Family’s Sex Problems, Again

Roll Call reports that former Representative (and football star) Steve Largent’s son, Kramer James Largent, got hired as Tom Coburn’s District Staff Assistant. That, in spite of the younger Largent’s conviction on misdemeanor charges of criminal solicitation and sexual harassment.

Sen. Tom Coburn’s decision to hire a former Member’s son who has a criminal record illustrates the latitude lawmakers have to hire as they see fit — and the value of personal connections in a world where information about wrongdoing can be found at a moment’s notice.

The Oklahoma Republican in March brought on Kramer James Largent as a district staff assistant in his Tulsa office, according to the website LegiStorm.
[snip]
Largent was indicted in July 2006 on four felony counts of the sexual solicitation of a minor under 16. Charging documents obtained from Delaware state court say that when Largent was 19, he met a 15-year-old girl on the Internet and tried to persuade her to meet him “for the purpose of facilitating, encouraging, offering or soliciting a prohibited sexual act.”

He later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was sentenced to one year of probation for criminal solicitation and sexual harassment, during which he completed court-ordered individual and group therapy for sex offenders.

Credit where it’s due, the Hill actually makes the connection between Coburn, the elder Largent, the Christian cabal “The Family’s” brownstone known as C Street where they shacked up together, and the involvement of both in covering up John Ensign’s extramarital affair (it also notes that Kramer worked for Ensign during college).

While it doesn’t come out and say it directly, it comes as close as possible in a Hill rag to stating the obvious: Kramer Largent only got this job because his daddy belongs to the same cabal as Coburn (and because he’s white and connected, because if he weren’t, even The Family might not have been able to help him).

Of course, Coburn is also the guy who once sterilized at least one woman without her consent because he thought she had had too many babies already. Vagina monsters, you see, aren’t entitled to the same kind of second chances as male members of The Family.

Update: Fixed mis-identification of original report to Roll Call thanks to Peterr.

Rand Paul’s Timely Questions

Charlie Savage has a report describing how Rand Paul’s hold the reconfirmation of Robert Mueller threatens to push the process beyond the time when Mueller’s ten year appointment date.

[A] necessary first step — enacting legislation that would create a one-time shortened term and make an exception to a 10-year limit on the amount of time any person may serve as director — has been delayed by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a libertarian-leaning Republican who was elected last year. He is invoking a Senate rule that allows any member to block a swift vote on a bill.

There may be significantly less time to complete the steps necessary to avoid a disruption at the F.B.I. than had been generally understood.

The widespread understanding has been that Mr. Mueller’s term will expire on Sept. 3, because he started work as F.B.I. director on Sept. 4, 2001.

But the administration legal team has decided that Mr. Mueller’s last day is likely to be Aug. 2, because President George W. Bush signed his appointment on Aug. 3, 2001. Coincidentally, Aug. 2 is also the day the government will hit a debt ceiling if Congress does not raise it.

I’ll be curious, though, whether the questions Paul has submitted to be answered before the vote might also lead to a delay, too In addition to questions about:

Circumstances implicating the Iraqis indicted in Bowling Green, KY
Investigative lapses of Zacarias Moussaoui that happened under Mueller’s predecessor
A Resource Guide: Violence Against Reproductive Health Care Providers calling boycotts “intimidation” (that might be more easily answered if the government would get over its squeamishness about calling Scott Roeder a terrorist)
A Missouri fusion center report suggesting support for Ron Paul (and Bob Barr!) might be a political risk factor for domestic terrorism

Paul also asks for the FBI to describe how many time it used each of the following tools, whether against citizens or non-citizens, and how many convictions resulted:

John Doe roving wiretaps
Section 215 orders (including its use for library records)
National Security Letters
Suspicious Activity Reports

He also asked, with respect to SARs, whether they got minimized after being investigated.

Now, Paul did not ask for this data in the most savvy fashion. For example, he did not specify on his Section 215 request that he wanted details on the secret program that uses cell phone data to collect geolocation. Nor did he ask generalized questions about minimization. Nor did he specify he wanted this data in a form which he could release publicly.

But these questions are, to a significant extent, the kind of disclosures that Democrats and Paul had been pushing to add to the PATRIOT Act.

In the past, DOJ has not exactly been forthcoming with some of this information. Even assuming they’ll answer Paul in classified form (particularly his question about SARs minimization), it’s not clear how quickly they’ll be able to produce some of this information.

All of which adds to the possibility that Paul’s request might hold up Mueller’s re-confirmation past August 2. If that happens–Tom Coburn has suggested–there are a range of surveillance authorizations that might be open to challenge because no confirmed FBI Director had approved them.

Nice to see someone wring some transparency out of this silly reconfirmation process.

 

Tom Coburn Suggests Problems with Use of PATRIOT Act Section 215 Will Be Big Court Battle

I’m watching the SJC’s 51 minutes of almost entirely pathetic questioning of Robert Mueller to remain Director of FBI for two more years (the only real challenge came from Al Franken on civil liberties issues). And while by far the most telling aspect of the questioning came in Mueller’s repeated assertion that aspirational internet terrorists are the biggest threat we face, Tom Coburn asked a truly fascinating question.

He asked Mueller if he believed his two year extension was constitutional. He then used that as a platform to ask (my transcription),

Could you envision colorable challenge to use of 215 authority during your 2 year extension of power?

While I have no problem with you staying on for two more years, I do have concerns we could get mired in court battles [over 215] that would make you ineffective in your job.

In other words, he suggested that the Section 215 issues that Ron Wyden and Mark Udall have raised may quickly turn into a significant, and drawn-out, constitutional litigation.

Remember, Coburn was on the Senate Intelligence Committee last term. While he’s no longer on the Committee (and therefore was not in the briefing on February 2, 2011 that got Wyden and Udall in such a tizzy), he would have been briefed on the FBI’s use of Section 215 to develop databases of Americans who buy hydrogen peroxide and , presumably, geolocation.

FWIW, Mueller didn’t really answer the question (at least not that I noticed), though in response to Al Franken he claimed the FBI has not abused any of the PATRIOT authorities.

Well, it sounds like Coburn, at least, believes a Court (and presumably, ultimately SCOTUS) may soon have an opportunity to determine whether or not he’s right.

Update: I recall now that among the things that Wyden has asked for at times–in addition to the OLC opinions backing this use of Section 215–are FISC opinions, presumably on Section 215 applications. That suggests this may already be wending its way towards SCOTUS, only via the secret FISA courts.

Update: I may have totally misunderstood. Alternately, there may be this much sensitivity on 215 that Coburn is worried. John Gerstein includes this in an article on Coburn’s concerns about the constitutionality of a Mueller extension generally.

“I have concerns that we’re going to get mired in court battles over this that actually make you ineffective in carrying out your job,” Coburn told Mueller earlier in the committee hearing. The Oklahoma republican noted that Mueller or one of his deputies is required to sign certain types of surveillance and search orders and that such approvals could be challenged if Mueller’s appointment was in question.

But why would Coburn be primarily worried about Mueller’s 215 applications–and not FISA applications more generally?

Update: Ok, I’ve watched the piece again. Coburn was asking about potential constitutionality of Mueller’s extension raising legal issues for Section 215 orders, which have to certified by Mueller or one of two of his subordinates. That may have been just a hypothetical. But it still strikes me as an odd hypothetical.

 

Holding Up Intelligence Reform, Clapping to Administration Demands

So after a last minute dance with three Republican holds, James Clapper is poised to be confirmed as Director of National Intelligence. As I noted before, this means someone most Senators either have or have had concerns about will be approved by big numbers to head our intelligence community.

But the more important story about this nomination seems to be about holds and reform.

As I noted before, John McCain briefly put a hold on Clapper’s nomination. As Marc Ambinder explains, he did so as leverage to demand information on a satellite program over which Congress and the Administration has clashed.

The Director of National Intelligence’s office has sent Sen. John McCain’s office its top secret report on the development of two “tier-two” electro-optical satellites that Congress doesn’t want funded but the intelligence establishment believes it desperately needs. Neither McCain’s office, the White House, nor the DNI would confirm that McCain was seeking information about the highly classified development program, nor would they say why it took so long to send McCain the report he requested.

In parallel with McCain’s hold, Kit Bond and Tom Coburn–who, as Senate Intelligence Committee members, both voted for Clapper’s nomination in the Committee–put a hold on Clapper’s nomination as leverage to get a report on threat assessments of people at Gitmo.

The Cable caught up with Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, who said that two other senators were holding up the nomination, committee ranking Republican Kit Bond, R-MO, and Tom Coburn, R-OK. The senators wanted ODNI to deliver an overdue threat assessment on the prisoners being held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

[snip]

Bond told The Cable Tuesday that he is getting the information he desires.

“Today I talked to General Clapper and I’m pleased the intelligence community is now working to provide the documents and access that I — and other members — have been seeking and that they are required by law to share with lawmakers,” he said.

Coburn also denied he has a formal “hold” on Clapper but said he was worried about the Guantánamo threat assessment.

“I think it’s important that we look at the vast number of people that have been released under the Bush administration and the Obama administration from Guantánamo who are now trying to kill American soldiers,” he said. “And I think that information is due and the intelligence committee ought to be getting it. So I am trying to do whatever I can to make good decisions.”

So prepare for James Clapper to take over at DNI!

And with his confirmation, expect Congress to lose the leverage it had to force the Administration to accept some real intelligence reform, reform that would, among other things, require Presidential Administrations to share information required by Congress more readily and widely.

So note the irony. The Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain, had to put a hold on this urgent nomination to get information that he doesn’t get (Ambinder says the Gang of Eight gets briefed on it, but not SASC; I think it more likely that a few members of the Senate Appropriations Committee get briefed on it, but neither the Gang of Eight nor the leadership of SASC). And the Ranking Member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Kit Bond (as well as Tom Coburn, who never met a hold he didn’t like), had to put a hold on this urgent nomination to get information he hadn’t get but was entitled to by law.

And yet no one finds this state of affairs urgent enough to make real changes in intelligence oversight such that individual Senators don’t have to find similar holds with which to gain enough leverage to get the information they need to do their job?

Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel @KagroX Is there a special category in your database for stories like this?
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emptywheel RT @stcolumbia: Int'l relations are inherently hypocritical but we can think of good reasons US wouldn't want to endorse that concept of r…
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emptywheel RT @stcolumbia: Bemused so many are shocked US would say training+equipping proxies doesn't equate to direct involvement in their later use.
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JimWhiteGNV @emptywheel They reject out of hand because it comes from US intel. That's all I've been hearing all day...
19mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Wonder how long it'll take UKR hawks to say this ODNI report not credible bc it places all emphasis on anon sources? http://t.co/JQRC9mOWMQ
20mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @adambonin Dood. I presume you visited Cobo before the renovation. Be thankful that the renovation was mostly very very good.
32mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Paul Rosenzweig has dubbed CISA "CISA Boom Bah" even though that's how he feels abt shitty CISA bill. Hope he doesn't mind sharing.
33mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @stuart_zechman Man, I've been having creepy paranoid dreams for the 3 hours I sleep. I'll take yours.
36mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @OKnox Why doesn't James Clapper like you as much as John Brennan does?
51mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Great news! The Senate will pass USA Freedumb rather than USA Freedumber. http://t.co/9A7JtacSBk
55mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Prediction: Halbig reversed to look like King in en banc, so there is no circuit split and SCOTUS denies cert. and stays out of it.
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @armandodkos They are not mutually exclusive, and it is what I have said from day one. Which you know!
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