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the Bush WH flimflamming Congress over notification

May 13, 2009

When the story broke that the Bush White House informing the “Gang of Four” about enhanced interrogation techniques, I thought, “I’ve never heard of the “Gang of Four” despite writing a chapter (in a forthcoming book) on Presidential notification to Congress.  I’m glad this article makes it clear for everyone.

It is unlawful for the executive branch to limit notification, as it did here, to the Gang of Four. There is no such entity recognized in the National Security Act. Federal law does provide, however, for notification of fewer lawmakers than the full intelligence committees, but only when “extraordinary circumstances affecting vital interests of the United States” are at stake. Under those very limited situations, the notification may be to the “Gang of Eight,” which includes the majority and minority leadership of the House and Senate, in addition to the intelligence committee leaders.

It should be noted that there is a legal argument that the interrogation program was merely foreign intelligence “collection,” and not “covert action” at all, because it was used to elicit information that already existed in the minds of the detainees. In that case, there is no exception in the law for Gangs of Four or Eight, and every member of the two committees should have been notified.

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