Covert Action

U.S. Air Force/Lt Col Leslie Pratt

In the aftermath of bloody and inconclusive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has relied heavily on covert operations. Drone strikes, the signature tools of the “light footprint” war the United States is increasingly fighting, have devastated Al Qaeda’s senior leadership. Special forces raids have produced key intelligence coups. The CIA has steadily transformed itself from an organization combating the intelligence efforts of foreign countries into a key operational tool in the fight against terror groups. But many observers worry that such tactics create more enemies than they kill and lack the accountability of more overt military conflict. As the long war continues, covert action is the new normal.

Latest in Covert Action

Covert Action

Teaching Covert Action to Law Students

I recently was a guest lecturer on covert action in a law school seminar. For anyone interested, my instructional approach (fictional scenario, issues for consideration, operational proposals) is available here —feel free to use it (or, better yet, improve on it). In this post I offer a few practitioner-focused thoughts on the “why,” “what” and “how” that informed my planning for this class. I hope this background description and approach are useful to others teaching about covert action.

War Powers

Remembering the Bay of Pigs: Law and Covert War

Tomorrow is an ignominious anniversary. On that date in 1961, about 1,400 American-trained Cuban exiles launched a secret invasion of Cuba in an effort to overthrow the Fidel Castro regime. After landing on the island’s southern coast at the Bay of Pigs, the invading guerrillas were routed by government forces. The humiliating disaster gave rise to a rare, publicly available Justice Department analysis of presidential power to wage covert war.

Homeland Security

CIA Releases Declassified Documents Related to 9/11

The Central Intelligence Agency has released five newly declassified documents. The release states that each document related to a 2005 Office of Inspector General (OIG) report examing the Agency's accountability regarding the previous findings and conclusions from an inquiry into intelligence community activities before and after the attacks of September 11th.

intelligence oversight

Five Important (Or At Least Interesting) Provisions in the Intelligence Authorization Bill HPSCI Passed

One thing I love about the various annual authorization bills is that they often contain very interesting but little-noticed provisions. The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, which HPSCI (the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence) voted out last week, is no exception. The full text is here, and my top-five highlights appear below:

Section 303: The Intelligence Committees want in on Special Access Program reporting.

Targeted Killing: Drones

Lindsey Graham's Iowa Drone Strike Out

It's a crowded field for Republican presidential candidates, but Lindsey Graham knows how to differentiate himself from the pack: he loves drone strikes more than his competitors.

Speaking the other night at the Iowa Republican Lincoln Dinner, as the Washington Post reports,

Graham made clear he is positioning himself as the most hawkish candidate in the field.

Al-Qaeda

Hersh's Account of the Bin Laden Raid is Journalistic Malpractice

When a journalist writes a tell-all story about a classified operation, and he suspects the story will catalyze anti-American anger, provide fuel for terrorist groups, and cause severe friction with foreign governments, the act of publication is morally fraught. When the story is based on obscenely thin sourcing and careens into conspiracy theories, the decision to publish becomes indefensible. Seymour Hersh has had a long and distinguished history as one of America’s finest investigative journalists. In recent years, he has gone a bit kooky.

Targeted Killing

New AP Poll on U.S. Targeted Killing Program

A new AP-GFK poll released today finds broad swaths of the American public continue to strongly support the U.S. targeted killing program. The poll was conducted in the days immediately following President Barack Obama's announcement that the United States had mistakenly killed an American and Italian hostage in a drone strike on a suspected al Qaeda compound.

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