Feingold Calls Out Blair on CIA ‘Significant Actions’
Greg Sargent reports that Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) is calling out Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence, for implying to The Washington Post that there was nothing illegal about keeping Congress in the dark for the past eight years about secret CIA “significant actions” that may have been some kind of nascent assassination program. Here’s the gist of Feingold’s letter to Blair.
According to a story on Thursday in the Washington Post, you stated that the failure to notify the congressional intelligence committees about a program recently cancelled by CIA Director Leon Panetta did not violate the law. I disagree and believe that the program in question fit squarely within the notification requirements of the National Security Act. I therefore request that you provide me with your analysis, and any analysis by the DNI General Counsel, supporting your conclusion.
One thing worth noting here: Feingold is saying that the lack of Congressional notification on the program is legally problematic, not necessarily the program itself. He issued a statement on July 13, shortly after the barest outlines of the program became public knowledge, striking a similar tone:
The failure to notify the congressional intelligence committees of the program prior to last month was a violation of the National Security Act and individuals who ordered that Congress be kept in the dark should be held accountable. I also have deep concerns about the program itself and have conveyed those concerns, along with a request for a thorough investigation, in a classified letter to the president.
“Deep concerns about the program” is what precedes an investigation into the program’s legality, as the House intelligence committee is now pursuing. But it’s not a conclusion about whether the program is itself illegal, as that doesn’t seem to be a conclusion any member of Congress is presently in a position to make.