Since its implementation in 1981, Executive Order 12,333 has served as a general charter governing the structure and operations of the Intelligence Community. While legislation has imposed a degree of added judicial and congressional oversight, the executive branch continues to retain sole discretion over large swathes of foreign intelligence activity today.
Over the past several decades, and in accordance with E.O. 12,333’s mandate, members of the Intelligence Community have each created internal agency manuals to guide their foreign intelligence operations. These manuals identify and define a range of technical terms critical to determining the scope of agencies’ intelligence-gathering authority, including what information is gathered, how long that information is retained, and the uses to which it may be put. But over time, the dispersion of authority to make decisions within and across intelligence agencies has enabled drift in the meaning of these terms. Together, the manuals have created a thicket of often conflicting and unclear definitions that are difficult for Congress, the courts, and even committees within the executive branch to understand.
In this article, Diana Lee, Paulina Perlin, and Joe Schottenfeld provide the first sustained analysis of these definitional inconsistencies, their consequences, and efforts to address the problem from within and outside the executive branch. In particular, it focuses on three terms that determine when the intelligence cycle “officially” begins: “collection,” “acquisition,” and “targeting.” By analyzing these three terms, this Article demonstrates the lack of clarity that executive discretion and dispersal create. This lack of clarity, in turn, makes it difficult for meaningful oversight, such as congressional hearings, to occur. The Article concludes by offering recommendations to clarify the parameters of the government’s intelligence-gathering authority. As technological advancements continue to expand the Intelligence Community’s capacity to gather information, it is imperative that the government adopt measures to facilitate effective oversight over the executive’s foreign intelligence operations.
Stephen Dycus reviews Professor Eric K. Yamamoto’s timely book In the Shadow of Korematsu: Democratic Liberties and National Security, published just weeks before the Supreme Court decided Trump v. Hawaii. Dycus draws out the book’s core themes, highlighting Yamamoto’s analysis of the Korematsu decision and its continued relevance in American jurisprudence. The review concludes with a discussion of Yamamoto’s proposed process for judicial review in cases that involve both national security and civil liberties.
Decision researchers describe a “prominence effect” that leads decision makers to choose an option with more defensible attributes when quantitative assessment of those options is difficult. Prominence is hypothesized as a factor in US policy decisions not to use military force to prevent or stop humanitarian crises. Prominence is also regarded as a behavioral failure affecting both the general public and public officials that can be mitigated to improve welfare outcomes in transnational security decisions. This article—by David G. Delaney and Paul Slovic—considers those hypotheses as they relate to attorneys advising the US president and other senior public officials addressing transnational security issues. It proposes a combination of institutional, organizational, and individual steps to mitigate prominence and related behavioral failures.
David Jonas and Dyllan Taxman’s insightful article— “JCP-No-Way: A Critique Of The Iran Nuclear Deal As A Non-Legally-Binding Political Commitment” —examines the Iran Nuclear Deal and its place in prior US arms treaties.
By positioning the Iran Nuclear Deal within the historical context of past agreements, American treaty-making, and national and international political norms, the authors conclude that the use of a non-binding political commitment to rein in Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions was both novel and inappropriate.
Instead, the authors argue that the Obama Administration should have used one of the available legally binding agreement options when negotiating with Iran. While the Trump Administration has since withdrawn from the Iran Nuclear Deal, this article highlights the importance of the US prioritizing future arms agreements that carry the force of law.
JCP No Way: A Critique of the Iran Nuclear Deal
MAJ Peter Combe argues that the covert action statute prohibits the Central Intelligence Agency from violating self-executing treaties to which the United States is party, as well as non-self-executing treaties and customary international law implemented by statute, but it provides domestic legal authority to violate non-self-executing treaties and customary international law that have not been implemented through legislation by Congress. This application of the covert action statute in practice is illuminated through a case study of the legal issues surrounding the Osama bin Laden raid.