Covert Action: Legal Framework

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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.


Oversight of DOD Kill-Capture Missions Outside Theaters of Major Hostilities: What May Change Under the Next NDAA?

Despite the substantial overlap between counterterrorism activities undertaken by the CIA and JSOC, we tend to pay a lot more attention to the details of the congressional oversight framework for the former as compared to the latter. The NDAA often addresses CT oversight relating to DOD activities, however, and this year is no exception. What follows below is an attempt to provide a user-friendly guide to the proposals on the table.

I. Increasing the pace of quarterly operational briefings regarding CT:

Covert Action

Waiving the "Imminent Threat" Test for CIA Drone Strikes in Pakistan?

[Update: Ryan Goodman has an excellent post here noting that a January 2013 WaPo article anticipated that CIA would get a waiver for Pakistan ops, albeit not necessarily a waiver specific only to the imminent-threat-to-US-persons rule.]

Adam Entous has an important story in the Wall Street Journal tonight, one that I suspect will get a lot of attention Monday morning.

Covert Action: Legal Framework

The Legal Basis for the Mughniyah Killing

The Washington Post and Newsweek report that the CIA in 2008 worked with Israel’s Mossad to kill Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah’s operations chief, in Damascus, Syria.  The Post says that Mughniyah “had been implicated in the killing of hundreds of Americans, stretching back to the embassy bombing in Beirut [in 1983] that killed 63 people, inclu

Non-International Armed Conflict

Readings: Civilian Intelligence Agencies and the Use of Armed Drones by Ian Henderson

Footnote 44 of the recently released and much-discussed OLC Awlaki memorandum is heavily redacted, but what's left reads, in part:

Nor would the fact that CIA personnel would be involved in the operation itself cause the operation to violate the laws of war.

Targeted Killing: Drones

A Clue About the Origins of "Imminence" in the OLC Memo?

There's a lot to discuss about the OLC memo on the al-Aulaqi strike---including, as Ben mentioned yesterday, the origins and significance of "imminence."  (There's also excellent analysis over at Just Security, which I recommend to interested readers.)

Throughout the OLC memo's 41 pages, the much-scrutinized term appears several times, often as part of a phrase: "continue

Targeted Killing: Drones

Is JSOC About to Become More Transparent on Drone Strikes?

One frequently sees the claim that CIA drone operations should be handed over to the military because the military is more transparent. I have frequently disparaged that argument, not because the CIA is in fact transparent but rather because direct action undertaken by JSOC isn’t transparent either. But might that change soon?

According to a story by Julian Barnes and Siobhan Gorman in the Wall Street Journal today, JSOC is seeking just such a change. They report that JSOC’s Commander, Lt.

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