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The future of the CIA and challenges facing the new director: Questions on drones, interrogation techniques and other clandestine operations.
- Robert Grenier chair of ERG Partners, consulting for the intelligence and security industry; CIA station chief in Pakistan until 2002; and director of the CIA's Counter Terrorism Center from 2005-2006.
- Christopher Anders senior legislative counsel, ACLU.
- Siobhan Gorman Intelligence and Homeland Security correspondent, The Wall Street Journal.
- James Bamford author of "The Shadow Factory: The NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America”.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Last week, President Obama announced he would shift control of the lethal drone program from the CIA to the military. Some say this could signal broader changes at the agency.
MS. DIANE REHMHere to look at the future of the CIA under the new director: Robert Grenier, former director of the CIA's Counter Terrorism Center, James Bamford -- he's author of a number of books and articles on intelligence -- Siobhan Gorman of The Wall Street Journal, and Chris Anders of the ACLU. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Send us an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning to all of you.
MR. ROBERT GRENIERGood morning.
MS. SIOBHAN GORMANGood morning.
MR. JAMES BAMFORDGood morning.
MR. CHRISTOPHER ANDERSGood morning.
REHMRobert Grenier, if I could start with you, are we seeing the beginning of a different CIA from what we have had in the post-9/11 years?
GRENIERWell, I think we've begun a transition. I don't -- I wouldn't say too much about it. I don't think it's going to be a sharp transition from the recent past. I would hope that we'll begin to see the terrorism threat in a little bit more perspective and that the CIA will be in a position under its new director to shift resources accordingly. But I'm not at all confident that that trend, such as it is, is going to continue very long if, in fact, we have another major terrorist attack against U.S. interest.
REHMAll right. Well, let's assume and hope for the best and say that we don't have another major terrorist attack. But is the CIA capable of changing directions considering what its history has been?
GRENIERI think it's very well capable of changing. I think we saw a very sharp change in the orientation of the CIA, very much reflected in a way it was allocating its resources after the end of the Cold War. And I think -- I don't think the CIA gets enough attention or enough credit for having made a very, very rapid transition. I don't think that we are in quite an analogous situation right now. I think that there is still going to be a lot of pressure from a number of different places for the CIA to make sure that there is not another major terrorist attack on U.S. oil.
REHMJames Bamford, is that truly possible?
BAMFORDWell, nobody knows whether there's going to be another terrorist attack, but the whole emphasis has changed. Actually, it changed just recently when James Clapper, the head of the intelligence community, the director of National Intelligence came out about a week ago and, for the first time in a decade, changed the threat posture of the United States. From now -- from that point on, he said that it's not terrorism that's number one. It's cyberattacks that are the number one threat to the United States.
BAMFORDAt the same time, the drone activity has moved from the CIA to the Pentagon. So that brings up the whole question of: Can you retrain people who have spent a decade, you know, sending drones around the world, blowing terrorist camps up -- and a fair amount of civilians at the same time -- train to actually do what they were supposed to do in the first place, which is collect intelligence and provide a reasonable analysis of it?
REHMSiobhan Gorman, how do you see it?
GORMANWell, I do think that it would -- it will be an interesting transition for CIA. But as far as I understand, the Obama administration is looking to gradually shift the control of the drone program from CIA to the military. And my understanding is that the presidential directive that they are in the process of drafting doesn't state a specific timeline.
GORMANAnd what we would expect from speaking with our sources is that the first CIA drone program that would probably be shifted would be the one in Yemen because the military already operates a parallel drone program there of its own. And some time down the line, we would also expect that the CIA program in Pakistan would shift. But we could be talking about a period of years here.
GORMANSo there's not -- we are -- I don't expect anything dramatic to change, but we are seeing a proliferation of different types of threats at this point, whether it is cybersecurity, whether it is greater concerns about the Iranian nuclear threat, whether it's concerns about what going on in Syria. There are more and more demands on the intelligence agencies including the CIA. And so I think that what Mr. Brennan is going to be looking at is, to what degree do we need to rebalance and try to address the proliferation of threats?
REHMSo the question about Syria and what the CIA is actually doing there, expanding its role, how do you see what's happening there?
GORMANWell, our understanding is that CIA is still operating on the periphery. They're still offering only non-lethal support, but they are providing some intelligence guidance to the rebels, some guidance that's known as actionable intelligence, which might allow the rebels to go take specific action against the Assad regime.
GORMANAnd they have also been, for years now, in the process of trying to vet these different rebel groups and try to figure out who has interests aligned with the United States and who does not, you know, who are the more al-Qaida-oriented folks within the rebel groups. And so CIA has been playing a role and a significant role from a U.S. perspective, but it's still not even the level of activity we saw at Libya.
REHMChris Anders, the ACLU had significant opposition to the appointment of John Brennan to head the CIA. Why?
ANDERSWell, we had a lot of concerns about two things. I mean, one is about his own background with both his period while he was in the CIA during the early years of the Bush administration and what exactly his role was with both the interrogation program and the secret prison program that was being run at that time. He had a couple of very high-level leadership positions.
ANDERSThe other was his role at the -- in the Obama White House as the senior counterterrorism adviser where he basically was the architect of this killing program, the targeted killing program and the use of drones and its great expansion. Well, he's confirmed now. And I think that, you know, we have hope for him and I think -- and certainly wish him well.
ANDERSAnd I think that there had been a lot of reports about, you know, his concern about the CIA having lost its core mission and wanting to re-orient the CIA back to -- if it ever was there -- but back to a intelligence gathering analysis organization and less of a paramilitary organization. We hope not a paramilitary organization at all. He hasn't made that commitment, but he said that he does not believe the CIA should be involved in what would otherwise be considered traditional military operations.
REHMWhat about his involvement in the approach to interrogation?
ANDERSWell, I mean, this is an area where, you know, he -- you know, we know that there are over 50 citations, you know, to him specifically in a report that was put together by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which still hasn't been publicly disclosed. But senators have talked about how there are over 50 citations to him where it shows that he knew about the program at the time it was going on.
ANDERSHe has maintained and I think, you know, have been very forceful about it that he had no role in implementing. And he kind of made a -- during the confirmation hearing, he made a very kind of Shermanesque statement that he had no role in developing it or executing it. And I think, you know, basically there were, you know, senators who had to make a decision on whether they believed him or didn't believe him. There's not a lot of information. Apparently there's no smoking gun showing that he took any action within the program.
REHMJames Bamford, you, too, were not too thrilled about John Brennan's nomination. Considering these statements just made by Chris, where do you stand?
BAMFORDWell, I agree. I think the drone program was a big mistake. I think it's created more terrorists around the world than it stopped. I think it set an enormously bad precedent for the world that the United States is developing these drones that other people are going to eventually develop. And, you know, we're saying you have somebody you don't like some place, use a drone on him. I mean, that's basically what we've been saying the last 10 years. So I think that's a very bad precedent.
BAMFORDAnd John Brennan was the architect behind this. So he's a person who's pretty much been behind Obama's very aggressive policies around the world since he took office, and that, to me, was not the kind of person I wanted to see running the CIA. I wanted somebody there that was good at inspiring people to go out and collect intelligence and inspiring people to do a very good analysis of it and not this aggressive drone policy where the -- every answer is use a drone to solve it.
REHMRobert Grenier, he did face a great deal of opposition in the Congress, but you supported his nomination.
GRENIERWell, yes. I don't think there's anybody on the scene right now who can match his experience. And for those who are opposed to Bush-era counterterrorism policies, if they want to have somebody with absolutely clean hands, then they're going to end up with somebody with absolutely no experience. And I don't think that's very wise.
REHMSiobhan, talk about this shift in questions about the use of drones and the oversight, where that is going to be and how it will be different under military command rather than CIA command.
GORMANWell, under military command, you know, there's very strict adherence to the laws of war and if the -- and the military can't run a covert operation. They can run a clandestine operation which is something that they do quietly. But if you get caught, you have to admit it. The tricky thing about the drone program is that you will always be caught because things go boom.
GORMANAnd they can't do it quietly. So the oversight is actually an interesting question. I'd be interested in what Chris thinks of this because the congressional oversight of the military drone program, some argue, is less than the intelligence committee oversight.
REHMSiobhan Gorman, she is Intelligence, Homeland Security correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. We'll come back to that question after a break.
REHMAnd in this hour, we're talking about not only the new direction of the CIA but its new director. Robert Grenier is here with me. He served 27 years in the CIA's Clandestine Services. He is a former director of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center. James Bamford is author of "The Shadow Factory: The NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America."
REHMSiobhan Gorman is Intelligence and Homeland Security correspondent at The Wall Street Journal. Chris Anders is senior legislative counsel for the CIA. And just before the break, Chris, Siobhan raised the question of your reaction to the president's decision to shift responsibility on drones from the CIA to the military. What is your reaction?
ANDERSWell, look, there's a lot that we don't know and -- about this decision. We don't even know if it's been decided, right? And what I've heard is that at least initially, the CIA is going to retain a key role in this, which is, you know, in the world of combat, what they talk about is that you find, fix and finish the enemy, right?
ANDERSAnd what I've heard is that the CIA is going to retain its role in finding and fixing, which basically means locating the enemy, you know, or the target and then keeping them basically within the American crosshairs, and that it will actually -- but it'll be up to the military to make the decision on, you know, whether to fire, you know, fire a missile or try to capture the target or whatever it is that they end up doing.
ANDERSAnd so, you know, but I think switching that final part of it over to the military is a big deal, and it really is an important step if that actually happens because what it does mean is it means, as, I think, Siobhan said, that they can't run these as covert operations. And what a covert operation means, which is different from clandestine -- clandestine just means that you're hiding -- you're trying to hide what you're doing, right?
ANDERSBut what covert operations means is that your whole intent is to deny that the United States is even doing this. And that -- so that deniability is a big deal, and I think that's part of what we're seeing during the Brennan hearing was that, you know, even though these senators were pushing for more and more information, they kept pushing back and saying, like, no, no.
ANDERSWe can't -- I can't tell you this, right? And part of it is because of this whole tradition of covert operations. I think when you're on the military side, there is much more of a tradition of real oversight from Congress. Now it's up to Congress, though, to do that. And I think there's an excellent column in Washington -- in The Washington Post today by George Will talking about how Congress seems disinterested in national security issues in doing oversight.
ANDERSAnd I think he's really on to a big point there that, you know, it really is up to Congress to exercise the oversight authority that it has. And certainly, when it's in the military's control, it's up to people like Chairman Levin and Chairman Buck McKeon, the chairman of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to really start to exercise that oversight.
BAMFORDWell, another area that we haven't talked about yet, which is along the same lines, is the new switch to a very aggressive cyberwarfare where we did a covert operation in Iran, used cyberwarfare for the first time in a first strike program.
REHMThe Stuxnet program.
BAMFORDThe Stuxnet program, first strike program where we used it actually not just to stop a computer from sending out the botnets and malware, but to actually, in essence, blow up something. We destroyed something using cyber. And I think that's where you have this new opening of the cyberwar being the big danger now facing the United States.
BAMFORDI think this is the new worry we have. And again, this is being done covertly. And the U.S. public has no say in this. I mean, we don't -- we're watching acts of war against a foreign country, and this one is not Yemen. This is a country that's much bigger than Iraq. So, I mean, you're getting into areas that I think needs some public discussion and certainly some discussion in Congress which hasn't happened yet.
GORMANThere's also an interesting distinction to make, though, between something like the drone program, which was -- has, you know, now going on for more than a decade and offensive cyberattacks which, you know, I certainly agree, merit a lot of public discussion. But one of the issues people raised with the drone program was, how can you have "covert program" that is basically widely known to the public and have it go on for 10 years?
GORMAN'Cause usually covert action -- and Bob could certainly speak to this better than I could, but my understanding is that this is -- it's seen as a discreet thing. It's a particular operation. And the president authorizes it for a particular purpose. And the difference with the drone program was you had this broad program that was still allegedly covert even though it was obvious because terrorists were getting zapped in Pakistan and around the globe all the time.
REHMRobert Grenier, what about this question of oversight transparency covert operations? Is that likely to change at all?
GRENIERWell, I think it may change nominally. Maybe we got to back up a couple of steps here because I think it's a misnomer to suggest that there's a real transition, even if we do fall through on this draft presidential order from the CIA to the military with regard to the drone program. It may well be a military operator who is making the decision as to whether or not to pull that trigger.
GRENIERBut as Chris has already pointed out, it's going to be CIA information, which is going to drive these operations. So, so long as the U.S. government is involved in promoting drone operations overseas, the U.S. is -- or whether the CIA is going to be heavily involved in it, the main reason that the CIA has taken the lead on this has really had much more to do with legal authorities. The U.S. intelligence community operates under Title 50 of the U.S. code. U.S. military operates under Title 10 of the U.S. code.
GRENIERWe are not supposed to be engaged under Title 10 in military operations overseas unless and until it is in the context of an actual war zone. And -- for instance, to take the example of Pakistan, the most glaring one, we are not at war with Pakistan, and yet, we've been engaged in a drone war on their territory for over 10 years now. So there's a big issue here with regard to the authorities that the military will have to employ in order to continue these operations.
REHMNow, what about the CIA? Is the CIA exempt from the control or oversight of a foreign country if the U.S. launches a drone into that country? In other words, isn't there some agreement on the part of that foreign country when drone attacks are used? And doesn't that country have some veto over whether those are used?
GRENIERThat's very case specific. I think -- and my understanding is that in the case of Yemen, for instance, we are operating with the consent of the Yemeni government. There -- it has been alleged that the government of Pakistan is maybe not quite so concerned, at least in certain cases, with the U.S.'s use of drones on its territory as it alleges itself to be for political reasons. That said, in any given instance, I can tell you for certain that the government of Pakistan is not terribly happy with some of the targets that we're striking and some of the unintended consequences of those strikes.
REHMAnd, yet, couldn't they issue a veto?
GRENIERThey could, and I can tell you that it would be ignored by the U.S. government. Particularly when we have U.S. servicemen under direct active threat across the border in Afghanistan, the U.S. is going to exercise its right of sovereign self-defense.
REHMSo let me understand if I can. The military is under certain rules and regulation of operation, the CIA is not, Siobhan?
GORMANWell, they're under different rules of operations, yeah.
REHMDifferent ones. And a veto actuality on the part of the foreign country does not apply to the CIA?
GORMANIt does not apply to the CIA. And one of the reasons why assuming we do see this shift from the CIA to the military, the reason why officials who are working on this expect that Pakistan would come some time down the line, as one official put it to us, it's a very complicated relationship in Pakistan, more so than it is in Yemen.
GORMANI mean, Pakistan publicly professes to oppose the drone program. But from the U.S. perspective, they continue to clear airspace, and they do not shoot them down. And this is, you know, a program that's been going on for 10 years. And so, under the U.S. understanding, they see that as tacit content, and that's the term that they use.
REHMJames Bamford, why didn't the military always have control of the end use of those drones?
BAMFORDWell, I think the CIA wanted a lot of control. CIA is a very aggressive agency when it comes to wanting control of actions like that. They -- the CIA can do this as a covert operation as opposed to a military operation. So they can argue that we can go in there and use the drones where the military would have to be a visible presence. I mean, the new thing now is that they're moving drones into North Africa.
BAMFORDThey've always used them in Djibouti on the eastern side, but they're building -- the military is building a new base now in Niger, which, again, is expanding the whole presence now in North Africa, which is beginning sort of a shift from Middle East to North Africa as being a major focus of the CIA and the military. Right now, these drones are just supposed to be for intelligence gathering, but, you know, it only takes us...
BAMFORD...sticking a missile onto a wing of a drone, and all of a sudden you have a, you know, you have armed drones then.
REHMChris Anders, I think I previously misidentified you as with the CIA. You are with the ACLU. I want to make that clear.
ANDERSDefinitely not the CIA.
REHMYeah. Please, go ahead.
ANDERSAlthough Michele Bachmann, last year, during the debate, said that we actually run the CIA, so...
REHMOh, is that right? Oh, I see. OK.
ANDERSMaybe that explains some things. I don't know. I mean, I think that one of the other issues and one of the things I've heard from some people on Capitol Hill about this possible shift is, you know, is their view that the military has -- well, two things. One is that it may reduce some interagency competition, which may end up reducing the overall number of drone strikes.
ANDERSThe other part of it is that the military has a longer tradition/history of being concerned about getting into conflicts that we can't get out of, and then also has -- is concerned about, you know, American troops on the ground and reprisals against them. And for, you know, for -- congressional staff have been briefed on both programs. They do feel like the military has, you know, maybe a little more secondary processing before using drones than the CIA does.
REHMChris Anders, he is senior legislative counsel for the ACLU. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're going to open the phones now, 800-433-8850. First, let's go to St. Louis, Mo. Good morning, Gabriel. You're on the air.
GABRIELGood morning, Diane, and panel. Thanks for taking my call.
GABRIELYeah. I just have a point to make about the drone strikes. Somebody in the panel mentioned, you know, the -- taking out these terrorists in the Middle East and in North Africa.
GABRIELAnd I guess my question is, how can we be so sure that these are terrorists based on the questionable intel that the CIA has provided us in the past with WMDs and the failure to identify 9/11 and that we're taking lethal action against people that the CIA says are terrorists, but they don't have any due process? They have no, you know, no chance to defend themselves. And then, you know, obviously, there are civilian casualties.
REHMAll right. Thanks for your call. Robert Grenier.
GRENIERWell, the predicate for all this is that the U.S. considers itself to be involved in a war with terrorists. And the standard that has to be employed is that the individual concerned must be reliably identified to be somebody who's not only a terrorist member of a terrorist organization, but someone who poses a clear imminent threat of death or harm to U.S. citizens and U.S. interests and their allies.
GRENIERI think that Gabriel is absolutely right that that is a very difficult call to make, and I think that it's important that a very high standard of evidence be employed. But these involve human judgments, and they're quite analogous to the sorts of judgments that soldiers have to make on the field when they're trying to decide whether the individual who's in sight of a weapon is actually an enemy who intends them harm.
BAMFORDWell, first of all, these are places where we're not at war, so these are countries where it's not really analogous to a soldier being on the ground since we're not at war there. The second thing is that we haven't even talked about the fact that the Obama administration has opened up using these drones to actually attack and kill American citizens, which opens a...
REHMNot in this country.
BAMFORDNot in the U.S.
REHMRight. That was answered pretty clearly by the attorney general.
BAMFORDThat's right. And -- but we are doing it in a foreign country, did it in Yemen. It sets a precedent. And, again, I don't know what the rules are for this. We don't -- this is a democracy, but we're not allowed to even know what the rules are. So...
REHMAnd that is the question, isn't it, that Americans really don't know what's going on?
GORMANYeah. And one thing that I did want to point out in terms of this question about your fidelity on the target, my sense is, reporting on this over a number of years now, that the -- both the agency and the military, when they're doing specific targeting packages, they do take a lot of time and consideration in assembling, you know, a set of evidence to say this person really is a terrorist.
GORMANThe challenge is that in Pakistan -- and, to a lesser degree, in Yemen, although it's a little -- it's still a little bit fuzzy -- they have -- they also launched strikes that are called signature strikes, which just means that the pattern of behavior that a -- usually a group of men is exhibiting in a corner of, you know, usually the tribal areas of Pakistan is similar enough to what they see with terrorist activity that that also merits a strike. And they don't know the identities of the individuals they're hitting.
REHMDo we know anything about the timeline of this transition? Has that been announced clearly?
GORMANFrom the military to the CIA? No...
REHMFrom the CIA to the military.
GORMANI'm sorry, from the CIA. Well, it hasn't been announced. You know, last week, you know, we reported -- others reported as well -- that the administration was drafting a presidential directive that would move this control, but they have not set a timeline. My understanding is they don't intend to set a timeline at this point.
REHMSiobhan Gorman of The Wall Street Journal. Short break here. More of your calls when we come back. Stay with us.
REHMAs we talk about the CIA going forward, there is still a great deal of concern, the residue of interrogation techniques, the use of -- supposedly, the use of certain forms of torture, including waterboarding. Chris, there are reports that a CIA agent tied to the destruction of interrogation tapes is currently being considered to run clandestine services. What's your reaction?
ANDERSWell, you know, look, a couple of years ago the ACLU, through our Freedom of Information Act lawsuit got a document that showed the actual order going out to destroy these tapes. These are tapes of two of the three people who were -- the United States has acknowledged waterboarding -- were videotaped during that waterboarding, and then the videotapes were ordered destroyed by top CIA officials. And this actually triggered a, I think, four-year long criminal investigation by a special prosecutor appointed by one of President Bush's attorney generals, Michael Mukasey.
ANDERSIt seems from this report yesterday in The Washington Post that one of the two people who were listed on that document -- now, we have black lines through the names, but what we've heard is that one of them is this CIA agent was -- is now the acting head of the clandestine service, which is one of the main components of the CIA, and John Brennan is considering whether to make her the permanent head of the clandestine service.
REHMRobert Grenier, how do you see that kind of appointment considering the history going forward?
GRENIERWell, I think we're still dealing with a political backlog. I think that the controversy around all of this really has to do with political opposition to Bush-era policies that are now, at this point at least, opposed by certain people in Congress. Many of the people who are opposing it now, I would point out, were notably silent at the time.
GRENIERI think the situation and the view of the threat has changed, and, therefore, I think the politics have changed. But in this particular case, as Chris has pointed out, we had federal prosecutors crawling all over this for years, and in the end, they didn't bring any charges. So I think if there's a concern, it's a political one and probably something which should be seen in that context.
BAMFORDWell, right now, the Congress has created a document that's 6,000 pages long that actually gives a lot of detail on what happened -- I mean, 6,000 pages worth. And there's a question of whether that's going to ever be released, or an unclassified version of it ever be released. And there was a big fight by the CIA trying to keep it from being released. And that's part of what this argument is over the person who's been suggested for the top post at the clandestine service.
BAMFORDAnd again, I think the public should really have a sense of what happened. This isn't the Soviet Union during the Cold War, this is the United States. We should know what happened. There's no loss to national security to tell what happened eight or nine years ago in a backroom with some detainee. It might embarrass somebody, it might cause somebody to lose their job or not get a job, but the public really has a right to know what really took place.
GORMANWell, and this is going to be one of the initial issues that Mr. Brennan is facing at the CIA. And it's sort of a two-part challenge for him. One, he needs to figure out how to manage the CIA's response to this report which, I understand at least, is a pretty strong resistance to the findings in the report and to the Senate Intelligence Committee's assessment of these case studies that it did.
GORMANYou know, I mean, I was told that the CIA disagrees with the majority of the Senate report. And so Mr. Brennan is going to have to decide how he brings that sort of a conclusion to his overseers who just sort of -- who just voted his nomination. I mean, you don't want to create an antagonistic relationship with the committee that is responsible for coercing your agency. And then he's going to have to make the second decision about, you know, what his recommendation at least is on how much, if any, of the information should be made public.
REHMAll right. To Tulsa, Okla. Good morning, Jonathan.
JONATHANHello. I just had a few questions. First, you know, with all the responsibility of the drones, are we seeing any push backs from the military sort of wanting to accept this added responsibility?
GORMANWell, I don't know that there's necessarily resistance to the added responsibility but there are a lot of questions even among very senior military officials about whether or not this is a program that the military should take on. And the CIA -- some at the CIA make this argument as well that the CIA has been doing the program, especially in Pakistan, for a long time and has, to some degree, developed a certain amount of muscle memory that can't be translated easily to the military.
GORMANMilitary officers rotate through at much higher frequency than the CIA folks do. And so there are even some at the military who believe that the CIA at this point has built up a certain amount of experience that they don't want to lose. Some people who say well, you know, the shift -- you can retain that experience and still shift the control to the military for the reason that Chris and others have mentioned, which is the CIA will still remain involved in the program in terms of targeting information.
REHMAnd your second question.
JONATHANWell, that was basically my question.
JONATHANI didn't know if maybe you were seeing that the CIA was ready to push this off to the military and if maybe the military were just, you know, not ready for the responsibility.
REHMAll right. Chris.
ANDERSYou know, one of the things that I think just kind of underlies this whole things which has been alluded to a few times is, you know, is the whole thing a good idea? And two of our -- two of the top generals who have recently retired within the last couple of months have made some very strong statements of concern about this vast killing program.
ANDERSOne is Gen. Stanley McChrystal who was the head of the special -- the Joint Special Operations Command who later became the head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, who talks about how the drone program has caused visceral hatred of the United States across a big part of the world where the United States needs to win friends.
ANDERSAnd then last week, Gen. Cartwright, who was the vice chairman, until recently, of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also made similar comments about his concern about how this program has -- is very broad and has caused more problems for the United States maybe than it solved. And so these are people who are -- who have, you know, long experiences.
ANDERSThese are not, you know, Civil libertarians or human rights activists. These are people who have concerns about how the military's operating on the ground, you know, how these, you know, what the blowback has been in important parts of the world where the United States needs to win friends.
REHMJames, I want to come back to the issue of cybersecurity and just how important a role of CIA is going to play in that, how important a problem you see that that will be for the United States.
BAMFORDWell, it's actually the NSA that's going to playing the major role. The NSA created this -- or the U.S. created this brand new organization under the director of the NSA called cyber command. So really, the power has shifted to some degree. The director of NSA used to be this person who was looking for a place at the table, and now the director of -- I'm sorry -- the director of NSA was looking for a place at the table.
BAMFORDNow, he is a four-star general in charge of an enormous -- the largest intelligence agency in the world. And addition to that, now, he's in charge of cyber command. And a larger, let's say, you know, one of the large roles of cyber command is offensive, it's not defensive. It's creating -- turning the Internet into a weapons platform in order to send weapons places. We're just seeing the beginning of this, just like we, a long time, just saw the beginning of drones.
BAMFORDSo there doesn't seem to be any restraint in terms of the administration if they're using these weapons to attack a country that, again, could lead to blowback, could lead to -- there already was some blowback from that. There was an attack in Saudi Arabia, which the U.S. has called the largest cyberattack in history, destroying 30,000 computers or something.
BAMFORDA lot of people attribute that to revenge for the attack, the cyberattack that was launched against Iran. So you have this new world that's opening up. And, again, the head of U.S. intelligence, James Clapper, said this is the new frontier in terms of dangers to the United States, and it's one that, again, needs to discussed here and also in Congress and...
REHMAnd so many people are worried about our own infrastructure, our own communications ability. What do you see going on, Siobhan?
GORMANWell, that's a whole separate set of challenges, which actually involves, to a lesser degree, the U.S. intelligence agencies because the private sector owns the vast majority of the infrastructure. And there is quite a dance of porcupines going on within the U.S. government about who's going to be interfacing with the private sector on this because the NSA has the best information.
GORMANBut, frankly, because of past controversies like the warrantless surveillance program under President Bush, there is a lot of resistance to a close relationship between the NSA and the private sector. So the Obama administration wants to delegate most of that work to the Department of Homeland Security, but most people think that the Department of Homeland Security is not very capable of performing that role.
GORMANOne other thing I did want to mention on the sort of cyberwarfare front is that that is going to be kind of the next frontier that we see where you're looking at this weird division between intelligence and military because even the Stuxnet attack, which we've alluded to a few times, was done under CIA authority.
GORMANIt was in strong cooperation with the National Security Agency and Israel and others. But, you know, CIA was involved in that as well. And they did it because they could do it again as a covert operation. So it'll be interesting to see the division of labor between the cyber command, which is a military organization, and CIA and NSA, which are intelligence organizations.
REHMSounds as though the whole sort of security apparatus and the whole investigative apparatus all are jumbled together with no clear division set up yet, Robert.
GRENIERWell, I think the issue again revolves around authorities. If the U.S. is going to take some sort of offensive action, not just to affect the situation on the ground in another country with which we are not at war, those authorities can only be exercised under a direct presidential order, referred to as a presidential finding.
GRENIERAnd it is the providence of the U.S. intelligence community, and specifically CIA, to carry those orders out. So if you want to do these things, then you have to have the proper legal authorities in place, and it's the U.S. intelligence community that has those authority.
REHMBut what about protection within the U.S.?
REHMCIA is supposed to operate only outside the United States.
GRENIERThat's right. And I think you can make a rough analogy between the division of labor, between, for instance, the CIA and the FBI. The CIA is an offensive capability both in terms of intelligence collection and covert action, whereas the defense of the Homeland, if you will, rest much more with the law enforcement community and specifically with the FBI.
REHMAre you satisfied with that, James Bamford?
BAMFORDWell, it's complicated when you're -- especially on the cyber aspect. The NSA, for example, is -- and cyber commander in charge of just protecting the military. The Homeland Security is in charge of protecting the other parts of government, and then the FBI is in charge of protecting the, you know, if there's crime involving cyber and so forth. So it's gets very complex. And the more we get into technology, the more complex it's going to get.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go to Harun (sp?) in Morgantown, W.Va. Good morning to you.
HARUNGood morning. My question was that -- is a little bit of an increase in national security with these various programs that are not very transparent, is it worth losing the transparency of our government by having these programs that only offer a little bit more benefit?
ANDERSWell, look, there is so little that we know about this drone program, these killing programs. I mean, until the nomination of John Brennan, the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is supposed to have oversight over the CIA, knew embarrassingly little about the program. They hadn't even looked, seen, been able to read any of the legal opinions on when it is that the president can claim authority in his view to order a killing overseas.
ANDERSAnd even after all of that fighting, they saw -- of these Justice Department opinions on legal authority, they saw what we believe are five legal opinions. They are -- the committee believes that there are total 11, and the six that they haven't seen deal with people who are not citizens. We've had a lot of discussion here about self-defense, that the theory that the United States is operating on is self-defense.
ANDERSWe actually don't even know if that's the extent of the theories. I mean, if you look at some of the drone attacks that have taken place, they're against -- very often against people who seem to be nothing more than a threat to maybe a particular government that's not the United States government but to a government of Yemen or the, I guess, government, if you want to call it that, of Somalia, or to -- or maybe to regional stability but not necessarily threats to the United States, or threats to American soldiers, or, you know, or directly to American facilities.
ANDERSAnd so, you know, one of the things that we don't even know is why it is that the United States is carrying out these attacks. There are (unintelligible) 8,300 people dead and amazingly little oversight.
REHMSo the question becomes, under John Brennan, are we likely to see both more oversight, direct oversight and direct transparency, Siobhan?
GORMANIt's hard to know. There does seem to be an interest on the part of this White House to keep trying to be more transparent, but it appears to be pretty incremental. And so I don't know that I would expect a large window into it.
REHMAll right. Robert.
GRENIERI think we've seen in the past that John Brennan's instincts are to say what -- one can say at least in the public in order to build up some public support for what the administration is doing. But we saw in his confirmation hearings that he was very, very careful not to make promises on behalf of the administration that the administration would not be comfortable with.
REHMLast word, James.
BAMFORDWell, in terms of transparency, we also have a president who's used the power to put journalists under court, you know, investigation more than any other president looking for leaks. So I don't expect a lot of transparency.
REHMJames Bamford, Robert Grenier, Siobhan Gorman, Chris Anders, thank you all so much.
REHMAnd thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Susan Nabors, Rebecca Kaufman and Lisa Dunn. The engineer is Erin Stamper. Natalie Yuravlivker answers the phones.
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