Have There Been Significant Phone Dragnet Violations Since 2009?

As I laid out in more obscure fashion here, there are slight — but interesting — differences between how the 2009 Congressional notice, the 2011 Congressional notice, and the 2013 White Paper on the PATRIOT Act dragnet(s) describe the compliance problems. I’ve laid out all three below.

I’ll have more to say about the differences in a follow-up. But for the moment, note that the White Paper released 11 days ago doesn’t date the compliance issues.

Since the telephony metadata collection program under Section 215 was initiated, there have been a number of significant compliance and implementation issues that were discovered as a result of DOJ and ODNI reviews and internal NSA oversight.

The 2009 one doesn’t either — though it does reveal that the government was only just briefing the FISC that September on its compliance fixes when Silvestre Reyes first asked for this notice (they stalled almost 3 months in responding to him), at least suggesting the recentness of the discovery. The 2011 notice limits the compliance issues to 2009, though.

In 2009, a number of technical compliance problems and human implementation errors in these two bulk collection programs were discovered

Note, too, the different descriptions of the FISC response. Both the 2009 and 2011 assure Congress that the FISC, along with the Executive, found no evidence of bad-faith or intentional violations.

However, neither the Department, NSA nor the FISA Court has found any intentional or bad-faith violations.

The 2011 also reveals that the FISC imposed restrictions on the program — restrictions that surely were in place in March 2009, when Dianne Feinstein and Kit Bond tried to start the PATRIOT Reauthorization program  and may still have been in place in September 2009 (there were notices to Congress about the program on February 25, April 10, May 7, June 29, September 3, and September 10, 2009, and briefing materials sent to FISC on the program on September 1, September 18, and sometime in October).

Nice of DOJ to tell Congress that two years after the fact.

The White Paper, however, describes the FISC response — at times — quite differently. It makes no claim about whether FISC found intentional violations. And it reveals the FISC has, on occasion, “been critical” of both the compliance problems and the government’s court filings.

The FISC has on occasion been critical of the Executive Branch’s compliance problems as well as the Government’s court filings. However, the NSA and DOJ have corrected the problems identified to the Court, and the Court has continued to authorize the program with appropriate remedial measures.

Not only is there no claim that the FISC found no bad-faith problems, but it now reveals that “on occasion” the FISC has been critical — critical about both the problems and the the government’s claims about the problems.

There are several possible explanations for the difference in language.

Perhaps, for example, the government revealed FISC’s critical stance because it knew the FISC would read this White Paper, along with the rest of us, whereas the Congressional notifications would originally have never been seen by the FISC. Thus, the Administration would have reason to be far more frank about the FISC’s response than it did in the past.

But in conjunction with the silence about the date of these compliance problems, I do wonder whether FISC has grown more critical since 2011. After all, if there have been violations since this apparently extended effort in 2009 to fix compliance issues, wouldn’t it make the Court crankier?

One more thing to keep in mind. Read more

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.


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?

SSCI Unanimously Approves Nominee They Don’t Like

As expected, SSCI just approved James Clapper’s nomination to be DNI. Surprisingly, though, there were no dissenters. Not Russ Feingold, with his worries about transparency on DOD covert ops. Not Tom Coburn, who was concerned about the timing of Clapper’s nomination (and who never met an obstructive tactic he didn’t like). Not even Kit Bond, who had a laundry list of concerns, from Clapper hiding his corporate ties, helping lie us into war, and flip-flopping on making NSA and NGA civilian agencies.


A unanimous vote. For a guy everyone on the committee expressed concerns about.

Perhaps most pathetic of all is Kit Bond’s statement on his vote, admitting he knows he’s probably wrong about it.

General Clapper has served our nation honorably for 46 years and I admire him, he has assured me that he does not intend to be a hood ornament but judging from recent history my yea vote is really a triumph of hope over experience.

Congressional oversight at work.

James Clapper Hedges on Providing Ongoing Updates on Special Ops Activities (and Other Disconcerting Answers)

As Josh Rogin and Marc Ambinder note, James Clapper is scheduled to get a vote tomorrow in the Senate Intelligence Committee on his nomination to be Director of National Intelligence. Ambinder reports that Kit Bond is most dissatisfied with Clapper at this point, the rest of the committee really ought to join in Bond’s dissatisfaction given his answers to their post-hearing questions. Take this response to Russ Feingold:

Success in the area of counterterrorism requires that the Intelligence Community and the Department of Defense coordinate their activities, and that congressional oversight not be fragmented. One example is Section 1208 of U.S.c. Title 10, which authorizes assistance to foreign forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals supporting U.S. counterterrorism military operations. The Senate Armed Services Committee has expressed concern that U.S. Special Operations Command may be leveraging this authority for long-term engagement with partner nations, rather than exclusively to support operations, particularly in countries other than Iraq and Afghanistan. Information about the use of Section 1208 is therefore critical if the Intelligence Committee is to conduct oversight of how the U.S. government as a whole is fighting terrorism around the world.

• Will you ensure that this information is provided to the Committee?

Section 1208 of the FY 2005 National Defense Authorization Act, PL 108-375, requires the Secretary of Defense to submit an annual report “to the congressional defense committees on support provided to foreign forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals engaged in supporting or facilitating ongoing military operations by United States special operations forces to combat terrorism.”

If confirmed as the DNI I would not view the provision of DoD clandestine military operational information to the SSCI as being within my authority or responsibility; however, I would fully support an arrangement agreed to by the affected oversight committees for the submission of information to Congress concerning this matter. [my emphasis]

Feingold’s question pertains to this issue.

• Section 1208 (Support to Foreign Forces)

Section 1208 of the FY 2005 NDAA authorized DOD to reimburse foreign forces, groups, or individuals supporting or facilitating ongoing counter-terrorism military operations by U.S. special operations forces (SOF). The FY 2009 NDAA authorized $35 million a year for this authority through FY 2013. The Obama Administration did not request a change to Section 1208.

The HASC bill increases the annual budgetary authority to $50 million in order to limit funding restraints during the planning of Section 1208-funded operations. The HASC was generally supportive of Section 1208 programs and was pleased with more effective reporting of Section 1208-related activities. The HASC voiced concern, however, that Section 1208 should not to become a “train and equip” program managed by Special Operations Command (SOCOM). The HASC also expressed uneasiness over the use of private contractors to carry out Section 1208 activities and thus required additional reporting requirements to track such contracting.

The SASC bill does not raise the Section 1208 funding level, and the committee expressed dissatisfaction with current reporting. SASC voiced concern that SOCOM may be using 1208 funds to leverage long-term engagement with partner nations rather than exclusively for supporting military operations by U.S. special operations forces to combat terrorism. The SASC asked SOCOM to review their Section 1208 execution to eliminate such leveraging. [my emphasis]

In other words, the House Armed Services Committee has expressed concern that DOD is using this Special Ops provision to train allies in military operations, and using contractors to do so. As Feingold notes, the Senate Armed Services Committee is concerned that in the guise of supporting distinct operations, DOD is engaging in long-term operations.

To me, this reads like DOD is using this provision to engage in war in countries against which we’re not at war: like Somalia and Yemen. This sounds like the authority DOD is using to engage in operations–including drug related ones–in 75 countries, as Jeremy Scahill has reported.

So Russ Feingold, presumably thinking of the way in which the Bush Administration started using Special Ops for covert actions partly to hide them from the intelligence committees, asks the retired general nominated to head the Intelligence Community whether he would share information with the intelligence committees about the activities. And Clapper responds, I’m not legally obligated to. But, if the Armed Services Committees agree, we can do some info sharing. Nothing, incidentally, about sharing the information in as timely fashion as the CIA would have to share information on less risky covert ops. Just a yearly report, I guess.

Now perhaps Clapper’s willingness to share information is all well and good and I shouldn’t worry.

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The Value of Advice and Consent: Clapper Nomination

I’m going to have more to say about James Clapper’s nomination to be Director of National Intelligence. But for now I want to point out similarities between how the Administration’s treated that nomination and its involvement in primaries.

Two things make James Clapper’s nomination anything but a done deal.

Most important to us little people is Clapper’s certainty in 2003 that we hadn’t found Iraqi WMD because Saddam managed to move all of them to Syria before US troops secured them.

The director of a top American spy agency said Tuesday that he believed that material from Iraq’s illicit weapons program had been transported into Syria and perhaps other countries as part of an effort by the Iraqis to disperse and destroy evidence immediately before the recent war.The official, James R. Clapper Jr., a retired lieutenant general, said satellite imagery showing a heavy flow of traffic from Iraq into Syria, just before the American invasion in March, led him to believe that illicit weapons material ”unquestionably” had been moved out of Iraq.

”I think people below the Saddam Hussein-and-his-sons level saw what was coming and decided the best thing to do was to destroy and disperse,” General Clapper, who leads the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, said at a breakfast with reporters.

Obama wants a man with a history of not questioning his own assumptions to take on a position invented, at least partly, to make sure the intelligence community questions its assumptions to prevent failures like 9/11 and the Iraq War.

The more important problem to the Senate Intelligence Committee–that is, to those with a vote on the matter–is that Clapper has a history of advocating for continued strong military control over intelligence functions, a view that puts him at odds with Dianne Feinstein and Kit Bond and others on SSCI. As Josh Rogin reports,

Yesterday, we reported that the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee were resisting the nomination of James Clapper to become the next director of national intelligence because he had argued in an April 28 memo against strengthening that very position.

Today, we have obtained a copy of the memo (pdf), which is entitled, “Discussion Draft: Provisions for FY2010 Intelligence Authorization Act that would expand DNI authorities over leadership and management of DOD’s intelligence components.”

The paper, written by Clapper’s staff, but not signed by Clapper himself, spells out 17 concerns that the Pentagon apparently had with the intelligence policy bill making its way through Congress. It’s clearly an attempt to defend the secretary of defense’s authority over defense intelligence agencies against what the memo’s writers see as encroachment by the Office of the DNI.


The administration sees Feinstein’s and Bond’s objections as part of their overall push for greater committee jurisdiction over defense department assets. For their part, Hill sources lament that Clapper’s memo seemed to be criticizing a bill that they thought had already been negotiated with the administration.

Regardless, Feinstein said she won’t move the nomination until her bill gets passed and her concerns are addressed. She meets with Clapper this week.

Read the whole Rogin post–and his earlier post on it–to understand why this is not just about a difference of opinion on the role of DNI and DOD in intelligence, but also about the Administration’s ongoing reluctance to allow Congress to exercise full oversight of the intelligence community.

The point is, the folks who need to approve Clapper’s nomination are none too thrilled about him and it will be very easy to spin a narrative about why he’s the wrong person for the job.

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The “Detainees Subject to the Review”

MadDog linked to the letter that Dennis Blair and Eric Holder sent the Senate describing the process by which 6 agencies and a 100 staffers meticulously decided the ultimate fate of Gitmo detainees–who could be released or imprisoned elsewhere, who could be tried, and (presumably) who had to be held indefinitely. It might be a reassuring letter for its portrayal of the deliberation and rationality applied to Gitmo detainees.

Except for this phrase, repeated twice: “all 240 detainees subject to the review.”

After carefully considering each case, the six agencies reached unanimous agreement on disposition determinations for all 240 detainees subject to the review.


After all of the deliberations described above, the DNI-either personally for cases considered by Principals or by delegation to the ODNI official on the Review Panel-agreed with the other five agencies on disposition determinations for all 240 detainees subject to the review.

This process, apparently doesn’t apply to all detainees. Only the detainees “subject to the review.” Now perhaps they’re just making the distinction between Gitmo detainees and those in some black hole in Bagram or some other secret site. But it sure seems to be referring just to Gitmo detainees. In which case, there must be other Gitmo detainees, outside of the 240, who are not “subject to the review.”

Why? Who are they?

Executive Order 13492, which instituted this review, provides two potential hints. First, it provides this definition:

(c) “Individuals currently detained at Guantánamo” and “individuals covered by this order” mean individuals currently detained by the Department of Defense in facilities at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base whom the Department of Defense has ever determined to be, or treated as, enemy combatants.

This would seem to leave out detainees held by CIA or contractors (maybe?). And it would seem to leave out those detainees whom DOD had simply never called nor treated as an enemy combatant. You know those family members Mary keeps asking about? They wouldn’t be enemy combatants, would they?

The EO also suggests DOD would have authority over any other detainees.

(a) Nothing in this order shall prejudice the authority of the Secretary of Defense to determine the disposition of any detainees not covered by this order.

So while this letter to the Senate sounds like a wonderful work of rational deliberation, it also seems to hint at some remaining Kafkaesque hole, whereby some people who have not been deemed enemy combatants remain in some arbitrary limbo not covered by this great display of rational deliberation.

Update: Hmmm is right: the EO lets the Secretary of Defense do what he will with all the other detainees (which I guess makes it especially useful if your Secretary of Defense is an old Chief Spook). I’ve fixed the post accordingly.

Kit Bond's Politico Projections

Before Kit Bond went on MSNBC this morning to call for John Brennan’s resignation, he planted the same attack in what was one of the most ridiculous Politico articles I’ve seen since its last Dick Cheney blowjob.

For example, you know the rule that says anonymous sources often appear, giving on-the-record quotes, elsewhere in the same article? This article, entirely focused on Kit Bond’s baseless attack against Brennan (though mentioning that Crazy Pete Hoekstra also made baseless accusations against Brennan) ends with this:

“There is tension between the intelligence community and Brennan,” a Republican member of Congress who has long worked on intelligence issues told POLITICO. “They just feel that he is trying to micromanage, and also playing somewhat of a political role.”

Hmm. “Republican member of Congress who has long worked on intelligence issues” would be a prominent intelligence committee member. Such as Crazy Pete. Or … Kit Bond! Way to hide your tracks Bond, um, Kit Bond.

Then there’s this line, in which Bond tries to associate Brennan with Rahm.

Others with ties to the intelligence community think Brennan—who works in closer proximity to White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel than any other intelligence official—is behind the push to fight back against political attacks on White House counterterrorism policy.

But here’s the fundamental problem with Kit Bond’s attack. As the article even notes (though doesn’t explain, but then it’s Politico), Brennan is pushing back against baseless politicized attacks on no-nonsense policies. Those baseless attacks were coming from … Kit Bond!!!
So essentially, the Politico has granted Kit Bond anonymity and an otherwise unobstructed soap box to wail that John Brennan pointed out that Bond’s–and other Republicans’–attacks were completely nonsensical given the briefings they received, not to mention the rule of law.

And Now They're Disclaiming Responsibility for their Briefings

Surprise, surprise. Just days after Crazy Pete Hoekstra did what Crazy Pete Hoekstra attacked Nancy Pelosi for last year–accused the CIA of lying–he’s now caught in another position he has criticized Pelosi for–not objecting in a briefing to an Administration policy he subsequently claimed to be vehemently opposed to. On Meet the Press this morning, John Brennan revealed that he briefed the Republican members of the Gang of Eight about the treatment of underwear bomber Umar Farouk Adbulmutallab (this is already an improvement on Bush policy, since they usually only briefed the Gang of Four). And they didn’t raise any objections to the planned treatment of him.

The Obama administration briefed four senior Republican congressional leaders on Christmas about the attempted terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound flight.

White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) and Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) did not raise any objections to bombing suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab being held in FBI custody.

“They knew that in FBI custody there is a process that you follow. None of those individuals raised any concerns with me at this point,” Brennan said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “They were very appreciative of the information.”

The Republicans are, predictably, claiming they didn’t know that normal FBI procedure includes mirandizing suspects, claiming that it wasn’t a real briefing–anything to sustain their efforts to politicize national security.

Meanwhile, I’m not holding my breath waiting for the press to call these Republicans on their excuses about the briefing or, more importantly, on their raging hypocrisy. After all, last year the press was able to sustain itself for several months over Crazy Pete’s attack on Nancy Pelosi for this (even while Crazy Pete’s attack was factually wrong). But somehow they seem to lose interest when someone like Crazy Pete gets exposed, for the second time in a week, as a raging hypocrite.

Scott Shane’s Love Affair for Dick Cheney and Kit Bond

The NYT’s Scott Shane presents what pretends to be a comprehensive review of the options for some kind of investigation into Bush era crimes. He reviews four options–a criminal investigation akin to Lawrence Walsh’s Iran-Contra investigation, a congressional investigation akin to the Church Committee, a bipartisan investigation akin to the 9/11 Commission, and nothing aside from currently investigations like the OPR review of Yoo’s and Bradbury’s advocacy on torture.

But there are two very disturbing aspects to his story. 

First, in a review of options for holding what we all know to be Dick Cheney responsible for shredding the Constitution, why would you present such a selective picture of Dick’s own history with efforts to hold Presidents responsible for violating the law?

Many Republicans, however, say the lofty appeals to justice and history mask an unseemly and dangerous drive to pillory the Bush administration and hamstring the intelligence agencies.

That was precisely the view of an aide in Gerald Ford’s White House named Dick Cheney when a Senate committee led by Frank Church of Idaho looked into intelligence abuses in the mid-1970s. A quarter-century later, as vice president, Mr. Cheney would effectively wreak vengeance on that committee’s legacy, encouraging the National Security Agency to bypass the warrant requirement the committee had proposed and unleashing the Central Intelligence Agency he felt the committee had shackled.


But some Republicans saw Mr. Church as a showboat and his committee as overreaching. To Mr. Cheney, the Church legacy was a regrettable pruning of the president’s powers to protect the country — powers he and Bush administration lawyers reasserted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Shane’s claims about Cheney’s views are odd. He bases his characterization on no quote from Cheney, though many are readily available. And his first description–the claim that Cheney’s "precise view" of the Church Committee was that it was really about an "unseemly and dangerous drive to pillory the [Nixon?] administration and hamstring the intelligence agencies"–seems to contradict his later more accurate claim that Cheney believed the Church committee improperly constrained Presidential powers. Which is it? A personalized attack against one administration and the targeting of intelligence professionals or an attack on Presidential power? Or is Shane suggesting that Cheney’s view of any investigation now would be an attempt to pillory the Bush/Cheney Administration, which is a different stance than his prior position regarding investigations of Presidents?

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Kit Bond Sings a Different Song on Holder

Here’s a liveblog of what Kit Bond had to say about any "promises" Holder made him about prosecution. You’ll note several areas of difference from the Moonie Times article:

Most notably I’ve been concerned about some of the comments related to intelligence activities that Holder made in hearings. I wanted to make sure the intelligence community has the tools it needs to protect the country. I wanted to make sure we had an AG who would keep the country safe. Discussed TSP, FISA Amendments, interrogation program, Gitmo, interrogation legislative proposals, media leak investigations. A second meeting. 

Carrier liability provisions, and propriety of investigating intelligence officials.

Confusing press reports and statements from Senators who were not in attendance. 

Neither Holder nor I made promises with respect to prosecutions. Holder provided additional insight that assures me he will keep the country safe. Assurance given to Kyl concerning investigation of intelligence officials on interrogation. 

Holder expanded on these remarks and explained how he reached this conclusion. His public emphasis on those who followed DOJ guidance, I told him and I believe he understood that trying to prosecute political leaders would generate a political firestorm. 

Carrier liability. He believed he would unless circumstances changed. I asked if he could explain changed circumstances. It would be difficult for circumstances to change since all this happened in the past.  Didn’t give me specific idea of changed circumstances. Given that those certifications are based on simple legal facts, I’m confident he’ll reach the same conclusion as Mukasey. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of the carrier liability.

Mr. Holder is not read in, or given access, to the TSP or the other programs, it would not be advisable to make statements about either program without the facts. I enjoyed his willingness to withhold judgement until he had the fact. I believe he will take good ideas from whereever they come.[my emphasis]

Here’s the relevant passage from the Moonie Times:

President Obama’s choice to run the Justice Department has assured senior Republican senators that he won’t prosecute intelligence officers or political appointees who were involved in the Bush administration’s policy of "enhanced interrogations."

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