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Why Can’t Darrell Issa Read the Wall Street Journal?

In addition to the rather amusing fact that Darrell Issa is conducting an investigation that Mike Rogers should be conducting, there’s another oddity about his “investigation.” The answers to the questions he asks Hillary Clinton have been available for over 10 days in this WSJ front page article.

In his letter, Issa asks,

  1. Was State Department headquarters in Washington aware of all the above incidents? If not, why not?
  2. If so, what measures did the State Department take to match the level of security provided to the U.S. Mission in Libya to the level of threat?
  3. Please detail any requests made by Embassy Tripoli to State Department headquarters for additional security, whether in general or in light of specific attacks mentioned above. How did the Department respond to each of these requests.

In the September 21 article, the WSJ listed several of the attacks in Issa’s letter (as well as an April 10 attack on the UN’s envoy). More importantly, it provided anonymous explanations from senior State Department officials describing their thinking about security in Benghazi.

The State Department chose to maintain only limited security in Benghazi, Libya, despite months of sporadic attacks there on U.S. and other Western missions. And while the U.S. said it would ask Libya to boost security there, it did so just once, for a one-week period in June, according to Libyan officials.

[snip]

State Department officials said security for the consulate was frequently reviewed and was deemed sufficient to counter what U.S. officials considered to be the most likely threat at the time: a limited hit-and-run attack with rocket-propelled grenades or improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

There was a string of attacks in Benghazi in the months before Sept. 11, including a June 6 IED explosion outside the consulate compound. “These types of incidents were the ones that were our principal concerns,” a senior State Department official said. Based on the outcome of the June 6 attack, in which a perimeter wall was damaged but no Americans hurt, a second State Department official added: “Our security plan worked.”

[snip]

[After the Brits pulled out of their consulate in Benghazi] The U.S. deemed the security level sufficient and decided to stay, “given the very important mission that we have in eastern Libya to support U.S. national security interests,” said a senior State Department official. He said “robust” security improvements had been made to the compound since the Americans moved into it in May 2011, including cement barriers and barbed wire.

More importantly, the article describes who made the decision to opt for a light security approach over something more aggressive: Ambassador Stevens.

Current and former officials said the security choices in Benghazi reflected efforts by Mr. Stevens to maintain a low-profile security posture and show faith in Libya’s new leaders, despite questions about their ability to rein in heavily armed bands of militants. Read more

Why Is Darrell Issa Doing Mike Rogers’ Job?

In his latest of a series of posts on the Benghazi strike, Eli Lake reveals that Darrell Issa and Jason Chaffetz have written a letter to Hillary Clinton suggesting State ignored intelligence about terrorists in Benghazi.

In the five months leading up to this year’s 9/11 anniversary, there were two bombings on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and increasing threats to and attacks on the Libyan nationals hired to provide security at the U.S. missions in Tripoli and Benghazi.

Details on these alleged incidents stem in part from the testimony of a handful of whistleblowers who approached the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in the days and weeks following the attack on the Benghazi consulate. The incidents are disclosed in a letter to be sent Tuesday to Hillary Clinton from Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the oversight committee’s subcommittee that deals with national security.

The State Department did not offer comment on the record last night.

The new information disclosed in the letter obtained by The Daily Beast strongly suggests the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the late Ambassador Chris Stevens were known by U.S. security personnel to be targets for terrorists. Indeed, the terrorists made their threats openly on Facebook.

Curiously, Lake doesn’t ask a really obvious question: why would a slew of “whistleblowers” go to Darrell Issa with their complaints about missed intelligence rather than Mike Rogers, Chair of the House Intelligence Committee? After all, if there was an intelligence failure, then it is HPSCI’s job to do something about it.

The question is all the more curious given that Issa’s Committee does not have the clearance for some levels of intelligence (the kind that sources who could well be these very same whistleblowers have already been sharing with Lake).

Meaning this letter will have an utterly predictable result: State will respond that they can’t share the information that Issa is seeking. And then Issa will escalate this, turning his “investigation” into Son of Fast and Furious.

Moreover, this intelligence should have already been shared with the House (and Senate) Intelligence Committees (note that Peter King, a leaky sieve, sits on both committees). If it hasn’t been, then Mike Rogers has all the more reason to escalate this issue. The only possible reasons for Issa to investigate this, then, is if 1) Rogers is failing to do his job and/or 2) this is just a stunt to turn a legitimate intelligence issue, the Benghazi attack, into a political attack on Obama.

Back in May, Mitt made it clear he was hoping for a hostage situation he could use as an electoral opportunity. Yesterday, Craig Unger confirmed what was already clear; Mitt intends to use the Benghazi attack as his “Jimmy Carter” strategy against Obama.

According to a highly reliable source, as Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama prepare for the first presidential debate Wednesday night, top Republican operatives are primed to unleash a new two-pronged offensive that will attack Obama as weak on national security, and will be based, in part, on new intelligence information regarding the attacks in Libya that killed U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens on September 11.

The source, who has first-hand knowledge of private, high-level conversations in the Romney camp that took place in Washington, DC last week, said that at various times the GOP strategists referred to their new operation as the Jimmy Carter Strategy or the October Surprise.

He added that they planned to release what they hoped would be “a bombshell” that would make Libya and Obama’s foreign policy a major issue in the campaign. “My understanding is that they have come up with evidence that the Obama administration had positive intelligence that there was going to be a terrorist attack on the intelligence.”

Since the presumed time of the meeting last week, Lake has written four stories about Benghazi.

But Unger’s source wouldn’t reveal what the second-prong of this attack was.

The source said that “there was quite a bit more” to the operation than simply revealing the intelligence regarding Libya. He declined to discuss what he described as the second phase of the operation.

According to Lake, Issa plans to hold an October 10 hearing on the Benghazi attack, even while Congress is out of session. That would put the hearing the day before the VP debate, and in plenty of time for Issa to create his scandal before the Presidential foreign policy debates on October 16 and 22.

I think it’s fairly clear what the second prong of this strategy is.

But the whole strategy is premised on a very flawed premise: one that says Oversight should investigate things it doesn’t have clearance for and that are solidly HPSCI’s responsibility.

I actually do want to know what happened here, and I was suggesting it was a planned al Qaeda attack longer than Lake has been. But it’s blatantly obvious Issa’s investigation is not designed to find out what happened.

NGOs to Congress: Don’t Hide Our Secret Government

I noted last week that the Senate Intelligence Committee had acceded to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s request that it repeal the requirement that his office produce a yearly report on the number of people with security clearances.

On Tuesday a group of NGOs wrote the Intelligence Committees asking they reverse course and retain the report requirement. They argue, in part, that the report has generated far more attention than typical government reports. And that the report offered the public an unprecedented understanding of the size of the clearance community.

We believe the annual report on security clearances provides exceptional value to the public and should continue to be published.
In the two years that the report has been produced, it has dramatically altered our conception of the size and scale of the personnel security clearance system. Prior to the reporting requirement, the Government Accountability Office could only estimate the number of security cleared personnel, and its latest estimate was low by more than a million clearances.
As evidence of the exceptional public interest in this report, we note that the findings of the latest annual report have appeared in the New York Times (July 24), the Washington Post (July 28), and McClatchy Papers (July 27), among others. As you know, this level of attention is well above average for a report to Congress on any topic.
Through this annual reporting requirement, your Committees have provided an unprecedented degree of transparency concerning the security clearance system. We thank you for that, and we respectfully request that you maintain this important reporting requirement.

Let’s hope that bit of flattery at the end works. If not, I guess we can conclude that even this tiny bit of transparency on our secret government is deemed too much for mere citizens to have.

Failed Overseers Prepare to Legislate Away Successful Oversight

Before I talk about the Gang of Four’s proposed ideas to crack down on leaks, let’s review what a crop of oversight failures these folks are.

The only one of the Gang of Four who has stayed out of the media of late–Dutch Ruppersberger–has instead been helping Mike Rogers push reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act through the House Intelligence Committee with no improvements and no dissents. In other words, Ruppersberger has delivered for his constituent–the NSA–in spite of the evidence the government is wiretapping those pesky little American citizens Ruppersberger should be serving.

Then there’s Rogers himself, who has been blathering to the press about how these leaks are the most damaging in history. He supported such a claim, among other ways, by suggesting people (presumably AQAP) would assume for the first time we (or the Saudis or the Brits) have infiltrators in their network.

Some articles within this “parade” of leaks, Rogers said late last week, “included at least the speculation of human source networks that now — just out of good counterintelligence activities — they’ll believe is real, even if its not real. It causes huge problems.”

Which would assume Rogers is unaware that the last time a Saudi infiltrator tipped us off to a plot, that got exposed too (as did at least one more of their assets). And it would equally assume Rogers is unaware that Mustafa Alani and other “diplomatic sources” are out there claiming the Saudis have one agent or informant infiltrated into AQAP regions for every 850 Yemeni citizens.

In short, Rogers’ claim is not credible in the least.

Though Rogers seems most worried that the confirmation–or rather, reconfirmation–that the US and Israel are behind StuxNet might lead hackers to try similar tricks on us and/or that the code–which already escaped–might escape.

Rogers, who would not confirm any specific reports, said that mere speculation about a U.S. cyberattack against Iran has enabled bad actors. The attack would apparently be the first time the U.S. used cyberweapons in a sustained effort to damage another country’s infrastructure. Other nations, or even terrorists or hackers, might now believe they have justification for their own cyberattacks, Rogers said.

This could have devastating effects, Rogers warned. For instance, he said, a cyberattack could unintentionally spread beyond its intended target and get out of control because the Web is so interconnected. “It is very difficult to contain your attack,” he said. “It takes on a very high degree of sophistication to reach out and touch one thing…. That’s why this stuff is so concerning to me.”

Really, though, Rogers is blaming the wrong people. He should be blaming the geniuses who embraced such a tactic and–if it is true the Israelis loosed the beast intentionally–the Israelis most of all.

And while Rogers was not a Gang of Four member when things started going haywire, his colleague in witch hunts–Dianne Feinstein–was. As I’ve already noted, one of the problems with StuxNet is that those, like DiFi, who had an opportunity to caution the spooks either didn’t have enough information to do so–or had enough information but did not do their job.The problem, then, is not leaks; it’s inadequacy of oversight.

In short, Rogers and Ruppersberger and Chambliss ought to be complaining about DiFi, not collaborating with her in thwarting oversight.

Finally, Chambliss, the boss of the likely sources out there bragging about how unqualified they are to conduct intelligence oversight, even while boasting about the cool videogames they get to watch in SCIFs, appears to want to toot his horn rather the conduct oversight.

Which brings me back to the point of this post, before I got distracted talking about how badly the folks offering these “solutions” to leaks are at oversight.

Their solutions:

Discussions are ongoing over just how stringent new provisions should be as the Senate targets leakers in its upcoming Intelligence Authorization bill, according to a government source.

Read more

Gang Warfare to Protect Israel’s Secrets

Easily the most overlooked line in David Sanger’s story on StuxNet is this one:

Mr. Obama concluded that when it came to stopping Iran, the United States had no other choice.

If Olympic Games failed, he told aides, there would be no time for sanctions and diplomacy with Iran to work. Israel could carry out a conventional military attack, prompting a conflict that could spread throughout the region.

It’s a sentiment he repeats in this worthwhile interview:

FP: There haven’t been thoughtful discussions about the consequences or the ethics or the international legal ramifications of this approach. Let’s imagine for a moment that you’re [Iranian President] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and you are confronted with this. Isn’t your first reaction, “How is them blowing up Natanz with a code any different from them blowing up Natanz with a bomb? And doesn’t that justify military retaliation?”

DS: Blowing it up with computer code, rather than bombs, is different in one big respect: It very hard for the Iranians in real time to know who the attacker was, and thus to make a public case for retaliating. It takes a long time to figure out where a cyber attack comes from.

That was a big reason for the U.S. and Israel to attack Natanz in this way. But it wasn’t the only reason, at least from the American perspective. One of the main driving forces for Olympic Games was to so wrap the Israelis into a project that could cripple Natanz in a subtle way that Israel would see less of a motivation to go about a traditional bombing, one that could plunge the Middle East into a another war. [my emphasis]

A key purpose of StuxNet, according to Sanger, was not just to set back the Iranian nuke program. Rather, it was to set back the nuke program in such a way as to set back Israel’s push for war against Iran.

With that in mind, consider the way the article blamed the Israelis for letting StuxNet escape.

An error in the code, they said, had led it to spread to an engineer’s computer when it was hooked up to the centrifuges. When the engineer left Natanz and connected the computer to the Internet, the American- and Israeli-made bug failed to recognize that its environment had changed. It began replicating itself all around the world. Suddenly, the code was exposed, though its intent would not be clear, at least to ordinary computer users.

“We think there was a modification done by the Israelis,” one of the briefers told the president, “and we don’t know if we were part of that activity.”

Mr. Obama, according to officials in the room, asked a series of questions, fearful that the code could do damage outside the plant. The answers came back in hedged terms. Mr. Biden fumed. “It’s got to be the Israelis,” he said. “They went too far.”

After having explained that the whole point of StuxNet was to stop the Israelis from bombing Iran, the article then goes on to say that what alerted the Iranians to StuxNet’s presence in their systems–and effectively gave a very dangerous weapon to hackers around the world–was an Israeli modification to the code.

The Israelis went too far.

Those details are, IMO, some of the most interesting new details, not included the last time David Sanger confirmed the US and Israel were behind StuxNet on the front page of the NYT.

How very telling, then, that of all the highly revealing articles that have come out during this Administration–of all of the highly revealing articles that have come out in general, including Sanger’s earlier one revealing some of the very same details–Congress is going apeshit over this one.

Read more

As NATO Summit Approaches, Taliban Strength Accumulates

Violence in Afghanistan continues its steady increase.

NATO found it necessary yesterday to trot out a high-ranking spokesman to try to tamp down the suggestion from Dianne Feinstein and Mike Rogers over the weekend that the Taliban has increased in strength. Unfortunately for NATO, however, there are more reasons to believe that the Taliban is in a strong position than just statements emanating from Washington power players. The Taliban themselves seem also to sense their stronger position, as evidenced by their abandoning the “secret” negotiations that the US had entered into with them over the winter. The caution exhibited by Hamid Karzai as he prepares to accept the handoff of security control for more of Afghanistan also reflects a strengthening of the Taliban’s position.

It seems only fitting that since CNN was where Feinstein and Rogers made their claim that the Taliban is stronger that NATO would choose CNN for their push-back on the idea:

A top coalition official on Wednesday disputed lawmakers’ assertions that the Taliban are increasing their strength in Afghanistan.

“I’m afraid for the Taliban the evidence is rather different,” said British army Lt. Gen. Adrian Bradshaw, deputy commander for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, in a briefing with reporters from Kabul.

The Taliban’s ability to deliver attacks in Afghanistan was reduced by almost 10% in 2011, said Bradshaw, adding that the NATO-led force is seeing a similar trend early this year.

“We get reporting, reliable reporting of Taliban commanders, feeling under pressure with lack of weapons and equipment, with lack of finance,” he said.

Bradshaw is of course gaming the figures. The independent group Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, or ANSO, reported that for 2011 (pdf), attacks by Armed Opposition Groups (AOG, described as the Taliban, Haqqani Network and Hezb-i-Hekmatyar) continued its upward trend in 2011, as seen in the figure above, rather than going down as Bradshaw would have us believe.

Reuters reports on the concerns surrounding the next step in handing over security control in Afghanistan:

Afghanistan faces tougher security challenges in the next phase of a transition from foreign to Afghan forces as insurgents step up their attacks, Afghan officials said on Thursday.

President Hamid Karzai is expected to announce on Sunday the transfer of 230 districts and the centers of all provincial capitals to Afghan control in the third phase of a handover before most NATO troops pull out by the end of 2014.

/snip/

There are, however, few signs of improving security in Afghanistan. Read more

Marja Serves as Microcosm of Military Failure in Afghanistan, But Failure is Country-Wide

Deputy Defense Secretary Aston Carter strolls through Marja marketplace on February 24. How many security forces were present out of camera range?

Back in February of 2010, US President Barack Obama’s surge of troops in Afghanistan began its offensive by trying to take the Marja district of Helmand Province. Then US commander of forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal famously touted his counterinsurgency program for the area, saying “We’ve got a government in a box, ready to roll in”.

Eight months into the battle for Marja, we had this:

As U.S. involvement in the war enters its 10th year, the failure to pacify this town raises questions about the effectiveness of America’s overall strategy. Similarly crucial operations are now under way in neighboring Kandahar province, the Taliban’s birthplace.

There are signs the situation in Marjah is beginning to improve, but “it’s still a very tough fight,” said Capt. Chuck Anklam, whose Marine company has lost three men since arriving in July. “We’re in firefights all over, every day.”

“There’s no area that’s void of enemy. But there’s no area void of Marines and [Afghan forces] either,” said Anklam, 34, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “It’s a constant presence both sides are trying to exert.”

/snip/

The result, so far at least: Residents say the town is more insecure than ever.

“There was peace here before you came,” farmer Khari Badar told one Marine patrol that recently visited his home. “Today, there is only fighting.”

Of course, the Defense Department would have us believe everything is now fine in Marja. They staged a stroll through the marketplace back in February by a Deputy Defense Secretary, presumably to mark the two year anniversary of the offensive. I wonder if this stroll was as heavily protected as John McCain’s 2007 stroll through a Baghdad marketplace.

But even though we are supposed to believe the offensive worked in Marja and the Taliban were routed, there was this from DoD on actions from April 15 of this year: Read more

Are the Chinese Spying on Our Spying?

Danger Room reports that our nation’s spooks have moved beyond their concern about Chinese chips and other “counterfeit” (read, sabotaged) parts in war toys to grow concerned about Chinese parts in our telecom system.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), and the committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, announced on Thursday that their committee will look into the potential for Chinese telecommunications equipment — like commercial servers, routers and switches — to help China spy on the United States.

“The investigation is to determine the extent to which these companies provide the Chinese government an opportunity for greater foreign espionage, threaten our critical infrastructure, and further the opportunity for Chinese economic espionage,” Rogers tells Danger Room. “Through this investigation we will come to a better understanding of the threat so we are better prepared to mitigate.”

The concern is that Chinese companies could tamper with equipment for use in civilian communications infrastructure, allowing China to insert Trojan horses that eavesdrop on targets in the United States. Chinese companies already make a number of telecommunications products sold in the U.S., but several have bowed out of deals to acquire large stakes in American telecom companies after facing U.S. government pressure.

Rogers says the investigation is an outgrowth of a review he commissioned shortly after becoming chairman of the committee in January.

Now, I don’t think Rogers and Ruppersberger are wrong to be concerned. The Chinese have every incentive to steal what they can from us, and their country’s corporations have always seemed willing to help out.

But I wonder if the concern doesn’t go beyond just China’s ability to affirmatively spy on select targets in the US and the rest of the world. To what degree are Rogers and Ruppersberger–the latter of whom represents the NSA–worried about the US monopoly on wiretapping switches? And is it possible that China will be able to create bottlenecks–as we did in the 1990s–to make it easier to wiretap? To what degree has China’s ascendance threatened the Anglo-American superiority in wiretapping?

Anwar al-Awlaki Assassination: Double Secret Illegitimacy

Frances Fragos Townsend is distraught that the media are not using the government’s euphemism for the Anwar al-Awlaki assassination.

Awalaki op was NOT assassination; nor a targeted killing; nor a hit job as media keeps describing! Was a legal capture or kill of AQ enemy.

My favorite bit is how that “captureorkill” rolls right into her tweet, a false foundation stone for the shaky logic that there’s a legal distinction between an operation in which there was never any consideration of capture, and an assassination.

But her panic that the media is not using the preferred semantics to describe the Awlaki assassination reflects a seemingly growing concern among all those who have participated in or signed off on this assassination about its perceived legitimacy.

In addition to Townsend, you’ve got DiFi and Saxby Chambliss releasing a joint statement invoking the magic words, “imminent threat,” “recruiting radicals,” and even leaking the state secret that Yemen cooperated with us on it. You’ve got Mike Rogers asserting Awlaki, “actively planned and sought ways to kill Americans.” All of these people who have been briefed and presumably (as members of the Gang of Four) personally signed off on the assassination, citing details that might support the legality of the killing.

In his effort to claim the assassination was just, Jack Goldsmith gets at part of the problem. He makes the expected arguments about what a careful process the Obama Administration uses before approving an assassination:

  • Citing Judge John Bates’ punt to the political branches on the issue, all the while claiming what Bates referred to as an “assassination” is not one
  • Arguing that killing people outside of an area against which we’ve declared war is legal “because the other country consents to them or is unable or unwilling to check the terrorist threat, thereby bringing America’s right to self-defense into play”
  • Asserting that Administration strikes “distinguish civilians from attack and use only proportionate force”

But, as Goldsmith admits,

Such caution, however, does not guarantee legitimacy at home or abroad.

And while his argument self-destructs precisely where he invokes the Administration’s claims over any real proof, Goldsmith at least implicitly admits the reason why having Townsend and Chambliss and DiFi and Rogers and himself assuring us this attack was legal is not enough to make it legitimate: secrecy.

[T]he Obama administration has gone to unusual lengths, consistent with the need to protect intelligence, to explain the basis for and limits on its actions.

[snip]

It can perhaps release a bit more information about the basis for its targeted strikes. It is doubtful, however, that more transparency or more elaborate legal arguments will change many minds, since the goal of drone critics is to end their use altogether (outside of Afghanistan). [my emphasis]

As Goldsmith’s own rationalization for the legality of this attack makes clear, the attack is only legal if Yemen consents OR is unable OR unwilling (leaving aside the question of imminence, which at least DiFi and Chambliss were honest enough to mention). So too must the attack distinguish between a civilian–perhaps someone engaging in First Amendment protected speech, however loathsome–and someone who is truly operational.

And while the government may well have been able to prove all those things with Awlaki (though probably not the imminence bit Goldsmith ignores), it chose not to.

It had the opportunity to do so, and chose not to avail itself of that opportunity.

The Administration very specifically and deliberately told a court that precisely the things needed to prove the operation was legal–whether Yemen was cooperating and precisely what Awlaki had done to amount to operational activity, not to mention what the CIA’s role in this assassination was–were state secrets. Particularly given the growing number of times (with Reynolds, Arar, Horn, al-Haramain, and Jeppesen) when the government has demonstrably invoked state secrets to hide illegal activity, the fact that the government has claimed precisely these critical details to be secret in this case only make its claims the killing was legal that much more dubious.

Critical thinkers must assume, given the government’s use of state secrets in recent years, that it invoked state secrets precisely because its legal case was suspect, at best.

Aside from John Brennan spreading state secrets, the Administration has tried to sustain the fiction that these details are secret in on the record statements, resulting in this kind of buffoonery.

Jake Tapper:    You said that Awlaki was demonstrably and provably involved in operations.  Do you plan on demonstrating —

MR. CARNEY:  I should step back.  He is clearly — I mean “provably” may be a legal term.  Read more

US Intelligence Operatives in Libya, Before a Finding, Sounds Like JSOC

Mark Hosenball, who yesterday broke the news that Obama had issued a Finding authorizing the CIA to operate covertly in Libya in the last 2-3 weeks, today says “intelligence operatives” were on the ground before Obama signed that Finding.

U.S. intelligence operatives were on the ground in Libya before President Barack Obama signed a secret order authorizing covert support for anti-Gaddafi rebels, U.S. government sources told Reuters.The CIA personnel were sent in to contact opponents of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and assess their capabilities, two U.S. officials said.

[snip]

The president — who said in a speech on Monday “that we would not put ground troops into Libya” — has legal authority to send U.S. intelligence personnel without having to sign a covert action order, current and former U.S. officials said.

Within the last two or three weeks, Obama did sign a secret “finding” authorizing the CIA to pursue a broad range of covert activities in support of the rebels.

Congressional intelligence committees would have been informed of the order, which the officials said came after some CIA personnel were already inside Libya.

Now, one explanation for this is simply that Obama sent JSOC–under the guise of preparing the battlefield–rather than CIA. It sounds like the practice–first exploited by Cheney–that the government has used frequently in the last decade of ever-expanding Presidential authority.

Indeed, House Intelligence Chair Mike Rogers’ claims he must authorize covert action, but hasn’t, sounds like the kind of complaint we’ve frequently gotten when the President bypassed the intelligence committees by claiming DOD was simply preparing the battlefield.

And Hosenball’s nuanced language about “boots,” that is, military, on the ground, may support that view.

Furthermore, we know there are a slew of British Special Forces on the ground in Libya. So why not Americans, too?

Hosenball is not saying this explicitly, yet. And he does refer to “CIA operatives” (who could be in Libya to simply collect information). But all the subtext of this article suggests that our special forces have been on the ground since before any Finding, which in turn suggests they may have been there longer than 2-3 weeks (the timeframe given for the Finding).

This is all a wildarsed overreading of Hosenball at this point. But if I’m right, then it would mean Obama would be using the shell game he adopted from Cheney to engage in war without Congressional oversight.