David Kris: I’m Not Saying CIA Shoots Drones, Assassinates Americans, and Influences Media, But …

In the passage of David Kris’ paper that address more public transparency, he included on paragraph on covert action.

For example, the covert action statute 221 could be interpreted and applied in ways that may be extraordinarily important, but about which very, very few Members of Congress, let alone the American People, ever learn.222 The statute defines covert action to exclude “traditional” military and law-enforcement activities,223 provides that a covert action finding “may not authorize any action that would violate the Constitution or any statute of the United States,”224 and specifically warns that “No covert action may be conducted which is intended to influence United States political processes, public opinion, policies, or media.”225 Without making any comment, express or implied, on any actual or hypothetical covert action, or even acknowledging that any covert action of any kind has ever actually taken place, it is quite obvious that each of those elements of the statute could raise enormously difficult and complex interpretive questions, some of which might affect many Americans.226 Yet it might be impossible, in many cases, to explain those interpretations without revealing the most sensitive classified information. 227 [60]

In other words, in a passage explaining the challenges and limits to making information available to the public, he implies (“without making any comment, express or implied, on any actual or hypothetical covert action, or even acknowledging that any covert action of any kind has ever actually taken place”) that CIA may have:

And while he very studiously avoids confirming these things that have all been confirmed elsewhere, his argument about the transparency of the matter has more to do with our treatment of covert ops than with transparency per se.

That is, it’s not so much that the US doesn’t and can’t know about the drone strikes, US person assassinations, and really bad propaganda the CIA has been involved in. It’s just that the government keeps the law on covert operations on the book, pretending it abides by it, while telling just the Gang of Four it doesn’t.

That is, it’s not about transparency, it’s about the legal sanction to lie about actions that everyone knows the Executive undertakes.

None of that is shocking (though it’s an interesting argument). But it’d be nice if Kris wanted to hint whether these covert actions included more politicized spying on American people.

17 replies
  1. peasantparty says:

    I think if we continue to follow the money and corporations involved, we will catch the answers we seek. Today there is another post with some great interesting facts regarding what Barrett Brown had been working with:

    The worst offenders of private intelligence firms—according to Barrett Brown: http://bit.ly/18f0V20

  2. peasantparty says:

    lysias and emptywheel, Yes and Yes!

    I did not listen to the entire hearing today. Thank goodness for Emptywheel. I did see some other articles posted and the twisting of words was simply terrible. I had to direct one of our friends here to find the real facts and truth.

    I also hope people will check out the Brown link after they read Marcy’s post. It helps to connect many of the dots.

    Also, for those of you that did not have the opportunity to watch the hearing today please be aware that some of your Dem representatives were downright combative with witness statements. They appeared to be completely captured under a blanket that belongs to NSA!

  3. peasantparty says:

    @Dredd: I agree to a point. I think we have been under this type of social engineering for the past 40 years. However, it has gotten to the point that our Government doesn’t even need the citizens anymore. They can print whatever they need for funding, and bet on their markets unregulated as they please.

    If there is not a point in the near future where the market actually corrects itself, the dollar will no longer be the Opec Currency. When that happens, the Consumer society is over. So is our American Economic structure.

    Okay, back to the regularly scheduled Emptywheel. It is wonderful and cannot be matched anywhere!

  4. William A. Hamilton says:

    The final paragraph of your post raises the question of whether the claimed authority for covert actions has been used “for more politicized spying on Americans.”

    If it is true that the Reagan Administration ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to administer a domestic spying database system under the Continuity of a Government (COG) Program, ostensibly for hand-off to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the U.S. Army in the event of a national catastrophe and the imposition of martial law, how likely is it that the database system, known as Main Core, would be accessed for political purposes in the same way as IRS data have been accessed for political purposes?

    The Reagan White House had an Office of a Public Diplomacy , headed by Walter Raymond, a former CIA propaganda specialist whose White House mission included measures to neutralize Congressional and media resistance to controversial policies such as arming the Contras. If the Highly classified COG domestic spying database system really exists or still least existed, it would not take a cynic to visualize its covert online access by an entity such as the Reagan White House’s Office of Public Diplomacy, a unit of the Reagan National Security Council (NSC) staff.

    I believe the question you raised in your final paragraph is an important question but it also underscores the need to understandi the slippery slope that led to the NSA excesses that are currently being revealed through the NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

  5. peasantparty says:

    @emptywheel: You have to be careful, Marcy. Remember last year when I tried to inform people about the Saudi machine and was promptly labeled the Crazy Peasant? LOL!

    Anyway, thanks for always promoting the truth.

  6. peasantparty says:

    @William A. Hamilton: Thanks for mentioning this and the Continuity of Govt. issue. Those are some of the things I had tried to research via the Patriot Act. I had questioned the wording of the legislation and if they had to implement the Continuity clause, then wouldn’t there have had to be a Suspension First?

    That and many other questions are still unanswered by DC types.

    I also would like to add that there is a committee of members of Congress that are supposed to have a small level of oversight of the CIA. I don’t have the exact term in my mind just now, but they SHOULD KNOW! Those members of Congress should know. Thomas.gov is not linking due to the shut down or I would bring you the link.

  7. peasantparty says:

    @William A. Hamilton: I remember now. The CIA head officer is to report to the head of the NSA. Both of them are to report to the “Office of Congressional Affairs”. That is, or was a small group of special members of Congress.

    I have no idea if these newly made up laws and legal opinions have wiped that committee out of existence.

  8. bevin says:

    “I agree to a point. I think we have been under this type of social engineering for the past 40 years.”
    Really, as an article at Counterpunch argued yesterday, this goes back to the National Security Act of 1947. The problem here is the Cold War, of which the GWOT or whatever it is now called, is a continuation. Until the lies on which the Cold War was founded, lies designed to “scare the American people”, are discovered and their implications understood, (as they were not in the 70s when Congress, in the wake of Watergate and Cambodia, last did the work in this area from which FISA came) the rot will continue.
    Asia Pacific Journal’s Japan Focus has an excellent articl which is worth reading:
    The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 37, No. 1, September 14, 2013. Cooking the Books: The Federal Bureau of Narcotics, the China Lobby and Cold War Propaganda, 1950-1962
    See more at: http://japanfocus.org/-Jonathan-Marshall/3997

  9. GKJames says:

    I continue to be mystified as to how a legal interpretation of a statute qualifies as classified information, a contention that appears to be accepted by the judiciary as well as most of Congress.

  10. orionATL says:



    you and william hamilton point to the way out.

    the severely sociopathic, unconstitutional nsa that edward snowden has made suddenly visible to us is simply a continuation of the propagation of secret-government-thru-security-classification-schemes

    that began in the national terror/paranoia over “the commies” in the mid-40’s and to which has been accreted in the ensuing 70 years more and more complex secrecy rules with severe penalties and an enormous pot of gold which has attracted corporations like rotting meat attracts flies and their maggots.

    the reasonable solution is to de-legislate, de-fund, and de-legitamize all of the secret government and start anew with only essential secret services, and only minimal allowable classification standards with minimal penalties except for paid espionage.

    an extremely protective whistleblower statute for secret gov whistleblowers is also an essential part of any plolicy for keeping the secret gov “honest” and small.

    the factual basis for all this reform is that classification of secret gov activities is NOT normally or often used in order to protect people and programs and “methods”.

    it is most often used to (or serves to) hide manipulation of public opinion, mistakes of judgement, serious professional misconduct, illegal conduct, ineffective or failed programs, misuse of appropriated funds by secret gov leaders and managers, and political payoffs to american politicians and foreign governments.

  11. P J Evans says:

    I am shocked, shocked! that the CIA does illegal things and lies about it to Congress and the American people. /’Casablanca’

    I’d be really shocked if they actually admitted they’re criminals and shut down.

  12. orionATL says:


    i will add:

    the first person i recall making the argument to long history at emptywheel was a commenter – tar heel dem – who, several months ago when the nsa story was still new, referred us backward in time to that 1947 act (if i am recalling correctly).

    history, i read from time to time, is destiny.

    tarheel dem was on the mark early.

Comments are closed.