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Patrick G. Eddington

Patrick G. Eddington



Articles by Patrick G. Eddington

Subversive Patriotism: A Constitution Day Reminder

September 17, 2018

In Washington earlier this month, one person’s words in the New York Times were were deemed a threat to national security by those at whom they were aimed.
An anonymous Trump administration official was labeled “a seditious traitor who must be identified and prosecuted for illegal conduct” for exercising his or her 1st Amendment rights by publishing an op-ed in the September 5 edition of the New York Times. Vice President Pence stated that the op-ed writer’s actions inside the Administration—trying to limit what the writer believes is the damage President Trump is doing daily to the United States—is “an assault on our democracy”—a notion unhinged from any semblance of reality. 
Like everyone else working in the Trump administration, the author of the op-ed took the same oath I did

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Interrogations Done Right: A DESERT STORM Story

May 10, 2018

During yesterday’s Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) confirmation hearing on Gina Haspel’s nomination to become director of the CIA, I noted on Twitter that the Army and the CIA had literally walked away from the lessons and successes on detainee/POW interrogations learned during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. That prompted responses like this:

Fair critique or missing my point?
I agree with Beale that the circumstances of the capture of Iraqi soldiers and officers in the 1991 Gulf War were different than the rendition, detention, and interrogation (RDI) program run by the CIA, and the people (actual terrorists or innocents) swept up in it. But the notion that one group of captives (cooperative, captured Iraqi general officers) should be subjected to one standard while

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To Prevent Torture Redux, Look Beyond Haspel

May 8, 2018

On May 9, CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel will get her chance to shape–or reshape–the narrative surrounding one particular episode in her 30+ year CIA career: her time running one of the now-infamous Agency “black site” interrogation centers used in the Bush administration’s torture program. Haspel’s challenge will be in getting Senators and the public to look beyond existing media accounts about her alleged role in running the “black site” at which al Qaeda suspect Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was repeatedly waterboarded, and her role in carrying out the destruction of videotapes showing the gruesome sessions. 
Despite the benefit of an unprecendeted (and in my view very legally questionable) CIA domestic influence operation on her behalf, Haspel has her work cut out for her. It’s

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Introducing “Checkpoint: America”

April 11, 2018

Today, the Cato Institute is launching a new online initiative: Checkpoint America: Monitoring the Constitution-Free Zone.
For over 60 years, the executive branch has, through regulatory fiat, imposed a “border zone” that extends as much as 100 miles into the United States. Within this area–which, according to the ACLU, encompasses two-thirds of the U.S. population–are a series of Soviet-style internal checkpoints run by the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) service. The majority of these stretch across the southwestern United States from southern Calfornia to the Texas Gulf Coast. As outlined below, CBP agents operating these checkpoints routinely violate the constitutional rights of citizens and other who are forced to pass through them to get to

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The FISA Follies: The “Schiff Memo” Edition

February 26, 2018

On Saturday (Feb. 24), House Intelligence Committee Democrats were finally able to publish their rebuttal to the “Nunes Memo” written by the committee’s GOP majority staff and released earlier this month. So what have we learned from this Democratic rebuttal memo? As it turns out, not much we didn’t already know—though you wouldn’t get that impression from the media’s reaction to and characterization of the “Schiff Memo” following its release. 
NPR’s Philip Ewing and his editors preferred to treat the dueling memos episode as a game:
The more a game is played, the more adept teams become at its rules and strategies. Basketball defenders deliberately foul an opponent to force a free-throw. A manager brings up a left-handed reliever to pitch inside to a dangerous left-handed hitter.
The

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The FISA Follies: “War of the Memos” Edition

February 12, 2018

As I was preparing for a Demand Progress-sponsored panel on Congressional oversight of intelligence matters on the afternoon of February 9, Demand Progress Policy Director Daniel Schuman and I agreed that if President Trump was going to refuse to “declassify” the House Intelligence Committee Democrats rebuttal to the “Nunes Memo,” he would wait until the late Friday news cycle to do it. We didn’t have to wait long for that prediction to come true. 
In a moment, I’ll get to the issue of whether Trump actually has the authority under the Constitution to do what he did, but I want to start with is this paragraph from the New York Times story referenced above:
But Donald F. McGahn II, the president’s lawyer, said in a letter to the committee on Friday night that the Democratic memo could

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The FISA Follies: The Nunes Memo Edition

February 2, 2018

After much publicly acrimony and week-long speculation about its contents, the “Nunes Memo” (named for GOP House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) chairman Devin Nunes of California) was finally made public today. In reality, the document was authored by thus-far unidentified GOP HPSCI staffers and does not represent a genuine, bipartisan committee product. It is thus, by definition, a purely partisan document.
But what of its substance, if any? Is there anything truly new or genuinely important in the document that is worthy of follow up by Special Counsel Robert Mueller? Unlikely. Should the memo serve as an opportunity for Congress to revisit its anemic surveillance oversight and reform record? Absolutely. First, let’s deal with the memo.
The memo itself is

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The FISA Political Follies Continue

January 19, 2018

Last night, POLITICO ran a FISA-related story with the lede,”Republicans authorize sharing of classified report on FBI, DOJ officials’ conduct.” These are the two opening paragraphs:
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have authorized their colleagues to access a highly classified report that they say details their concerns with the conduct of top FBI and Justice Department officials, as well as the agencies’ handling of a controversial surveillance program.
“We have concerns — FISA concerns — that all members of the body should know,” said Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), a member of the committee, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Some of President Donald Trump’s allies in the House have argued that the program was inappropriately used to surveil a

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Fear and Mass Surveillance: Our Constitutionally Toxic Political Cocktail

January 18, 2018

At 12:51pm on January 18, 2018–just a day before it was set to expire–the Senate followed the House’s lead and reauthorized the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act (FAA) Section 702 mass surveillance program for another six years by a vote of 65-34.
Writing for JustSecurity.org in October 2017, I made this prediction about the then-looming debate over extending the mass surveillance authority embodied in Section 702: 
Absent another Snowden-like revelation, Section 702 of the FAA will be reauthorized largely without change, and any changes will be cosmetic, and almost certainly abused. Whether it has a “sunset” provision or not is now politically and practically meaningless.
As it turns out, that prediction was optimistic. But first, a recap of the events of this week.

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House Votes To Reauthorize FISA Section 702 Mass Surveillance Program

January 11, 2018

Two months of drama in the House of Representatives over the soon-to-expire FISA Section 702 mass surveillance program came to an end this morning, with a bipartisan group of House members first defeating a FISA reform amendment (USA RIGHTS Act) offered by Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), then passing the GOP House leadership bill. The key votes in support of the GOP House leadership effort came from Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-CA).
The progressive activist group Demand Progress, which spearheaded the campaign on the political left for meaningful surveillance reforms, issued a blistering statement after the vote, the key paragraph of which follows:
Demand Progress has opposed the FISA Amendments

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Trump Undermines House GOP Leadership On FISA Reauthorization

January 11, 2018

Last night, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) opposing the FISA Amendments Act Section 702 reform amendment offered by House members Ted Poe (R-TX), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Justin Amash (R-MI), Thomas Massie (R-KY) and several dozen others. Around the same, time GOP House Whip Steve Scalise’s office circulated an email to all GOP members that included a falsehood-laden attack on bipartisan FISA reform amendment authored by House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA):

In fact, the Poe/Lofgren/Amash/Massie substitute creates no such “barriers”–it would require federal authorities to get a probable cause-based warrant to search the stored communications of Americans acquired under Section 702. Exactly as the Fourth

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House FISA Reform Battle Enters Final Stage

January 10, 2018

Last night, the House Rules Committee made in order one alternative to the HPSCI FISA Sec. 702 reauthorization bill, the USA Rights Act. You can view the Rule here. 
The bill was originally introduced in the Senate by Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY). You can view a one-pager on the USA Rights Act here.  
None of this would have happened without the relentless effort of Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) and a number of his House Freedom Caucus colleagues, who’ve made clear for some time that they would not support the reauthorization of the extremely controversial (and constitutionally dubious) FISA Sec. 702 mass surveillance program in its current form. Amash is an original cosponsor of the House version of the USA Rights Act. 
To be clear, the USA Rights Act is itself a significantly

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FISA “Reform”: The Surveillance Fear Mongering Campaign Ramps Up

December 20, 2017

The House GOP leadership must be at least somewhat worried about the prospects for passage of their Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act (FAA) Sec. 702 bill, HR 4478, which the House Rules Committee will consider later today in an “emergency” session.
I say this because this morning, the House GOP leadership circulated a wanted poster-style flyer of a dead man: Haji Iman, the alleged ISIS deputy finance minister and second in command to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed in eastern Syria on March 25, 2016. The flyer puts the phrase “ISIS” in a huge font, just in case the reader wasn’t getting the message.
Claiming that “Iman would still be plotting to kill Americans without Section 702,” the flyer then makes an interesting admission: that the search for Iman

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Postscript: THINTHREAD-TRAILBLAZER DoD IG Report

December 8, 2017

I’ve had lots of requests for a non-Scribd link to the 2004 DoD IG report on the THINTHREAD and TRAILBLAZER programs I mentioned in my JustSecurity.org piece yesterday, so you can now find it here. 
I should point out that at the end of the excellent documentary on this topic, A Good American, the film’s creators noted that Hayden, NSA’s Signal Intelligence Division director Maureen Baginski, and two other senior NSA executives involved in this affair declined to be interviewed on camera.

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Hayden, NSA and the Road to 9/11

December 7, 2017

This article originally appeared on Just Security on December 7, 2017. 
 

Retired Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and CIA (and now, a national security analyst at CNN), has recently emerged as a leading critic of the Trump administration, but not so long ago, he was widely criticized for his role in the post-9/11 surveillance abuses. With the publication of his memoir, Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror, Hayden launched his reputational rehab campaign.
Like most such memoirs by high-level Washington insiders, Hayden’s tends to be heavy on self-justification and light on genuine introspection and accountability. Also, when a memoir is written by someone who spent their professional life in the classified world of the American Intelligence

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BREAKING: FISA Section 702 Reauthorization Bill Circulated

October 4, 2017

Earlier this afternoon, the House Judiciary Committee circulated its draft FISA Sec. 702 reauthorization bill. This is a preliminary readout of the major problems I see with this legislation.
Mandatory Data Destruction Not Mandatory
One of the biggest vulnerabilities Americans face today is the growing volume of their personal data being stored on servers in the private sector and in government. In the government counterterrorism (CT) context—and CT intelligence collection was the original rationale for this authority—there is simply no reason for the government to continue the collection and storage of the information of innocent U.S. Persons (a legal definition that includes citizens and legal permanent residents).
The bill as drafted would allow the government to do exactly that

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Is Wikileaks A “Non-state Hostile Intelligence Service” As Some Claim?

August 28, 2017

Just before the annual rush to get out of town for the August District Work Period, the Senate Intelligence Committee passed its annual Intelligence Authorization bill by a 14-1 vote. The lone dissenter was Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon, a recent guest at Cato and arguably the most articulate and well-informed member of Congress on Intelligence Community oversight issues. Almost a month after the vote, Wyden explained to The Hill why he elected to oppose the bill, which includes language aimed at Wikileaks and its founder and leader, Julian Assange:
“My concern is that the use of the novel phrase ‘non-state hostile intelligence service’ may have legal, constitutional, and policy implications, particularly should it be applied to journalists inquiring about secrets,” said Wyden.
“The

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After Charlottesville, Some Misguidedly Embrace CVE

August 21, 2017

Over the past week and in response to the recent clash in Charlottesville, Virginia between neo-Nazi/white supremacist fanatics and those opposed to them, some elements on the American political left are now clamoring for the Trump administration to restart a long-ago discredited Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program known as “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE). This action alert from CREDO Mobile is representative:
DHS established the Counter Violent Extremism (CVE) program to protect communities from domestic hate groups. It provides funding and resources to help communities develop and sustain local prevention efforts. Life After Hate, a group that focuses on breaking down white supremacy, was the only organization of its kind that DHS had approved for CVE federal funding

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How Do Police View The Neo-Nazi/White Supremacist Threat?

August 14, 2017

Two years ago, researchers at Duke University, drawing on a survey they conducted with police departments around the country through the Police Executive Research Forum, published a study on police perceptions of the domestic terrorist threat. It’s worth recounting the key findings:

Law enforcement agencies in the United States consider anti-government violent extremists, not radicalized Muslims, to be the most severe threat of political violence that they face.
They perceive violent extremism to be a much more severe threat nationally than the threat of violent extremism in their own jurisdictions.
And a large majority of law enforcement agencies rank the threat of all forms of violent extremism in their own jurisdictions as moderate or lower (3 or less on a 1-5 scale). 

The

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The Curious Case Of Ex-NSA Inspector General George Ellard

August 3, 2017

On August 3, The American Conservative ran a lengthy piece of mine dealing with the whistleblower protection nightmare that is the Department of Defense. One of the subjects of that piece is now former NSA IG George Ellard, and because I had even more on his case than I could fit into the TAC piece, I wanted to share the rest of what I know–and don’t know–about the allegations against Ellard, the final disposition of the case, why the Obama administration’s whistleblower retaliation “fix” is itself broken, and what might be done to actually provide meaningful protections for would-be national security whistleblowers in the Pentagon and elsewhere in the national security establishment.
Regarding what little we know about the specifics of Ellard’s case, I had this to say in the TAC

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Apple, China, and the Wages Of Tyranny

August 2, 2017

This week, Apple announced it had pulled several apps from its iOS App Store that offer virtual private network (VPN) services in China. As quoted by tech blog TechCrunch, Apple stated:
Earlier this year China’s [Ministry of Industry and Information Technology] MIIT announced that all developers offering VPNs must obtain a license from the government.  We have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations. These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business.
One published report claims that as many as 60 VPNs were pulled from the China version of the App Store. A Google search on the topic generally shows Apple taking a public beating for the action, which, in fact, was unavoidable if Apple was to comply with the new Chinese

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Our National Security Whistleblower Crisis

July 26, 2017

Is the Trump-run Pentagon a hostile workplace for Defense Department whistleblowers? Or is there simply an anti-whistleblower organizational tradition at the Pentagon that stretches back decades? An examination of recent events and the historical record suggests it’s both, and the implications for taxpayers and American national security are serious. I’ll start with the latest developments.
As the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) first reported in December 2016, a three-member interagency Inspector General External Review Panel concluded in May 2016 that the then-Inspector General of the National Security Agency (NSA), George Ellard, had, according to POGO, “previously retaliated against an NSA whistleblower”—apparently during the very same period that Ellard had claimed that

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Pelosi Complains About Procedure Surrounding, Not Substance Of, Intelligence Bill

July 24, 2017

As I reported over the weekend, today the House will take up the FY 2018 Intelligence Authorization Act (HR 3180) under an expedited consideration mechanism known as suspension of the rules. The announcement was made Friday, but late on Sunday, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi complained about the fast-tracking of the bill. POLITICO quoted a letter from Pelosi to House Democrats:
“The Republican move to place this intelligence bill on Monday’s suspension calendar would deprive Democrats of the ability to have a full and open debate on critical intelligence issues at this sensitive time in our nation’s history…This is unacceptable when critical intelligence decisions are being made that impact America’s national security, and while the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are

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FY18 Intelligence Authorization Bill Calls For New Russian Meddling Assessments

July 23, 2017

On Monday, July 24, the House will consider the Fiscal Year 2018 Intelligence Authorization Act under suspension of the rules in an attempt to fast-track the legislation, which contains some significant “Russiagate”-related provisions. 
Section 501 calls for a new Intelligence Community assessment “of the most significant Russian influence campaigns, if any, conducted during the 3-year period preceding the date of the enactment of this Act, as well as the most significant current or planned such Russian influence campaigns, if any.” Significantly, the classified report, which is due 60 days after enactment, is to also have an unclassified summary, meaning the public may learn still more about exactly when alleged Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election began.
What

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What’s Missing from Apple’s Latest Lobbying Disclosure Form

July 21, 2017

MacRumors has a piece out today noting that Apple has raised its lobbying game in Washington over the last six months, spending $3.6 million on a team of lobbyists who’ve visited House and Senate offices on issues ranging from “general patent reform” to “green technology” to “issues related to implementation of Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act.” What’s missing from the lobbying disclosure form is any mention of federal government surveillance practices, whether it be Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act or that nasty encryption-related battle Apple had with the FBI in the wake of the San Bernardino shooting in 2015. 
As Reuters noted earlier this month, the tech industry generally has been rather quiet about FISA reform, though members of the Reform Government Surveillance

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Trump Administration Proposes Massive Cuts to TSA VIPR Teams

July 14, 2017

I think this is the first official act of the Trump administration that I can honestly say I can get behind, and enthusiastically. According to the Washington Post, Trump’s budget plan would dramatically cut funding for TSA’s roving Fourth Amendment violation squads, better known as “Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response” (VIPR) teams. From the Post story:
Under the proposed budget, VIPR funding would drop to $15 million from $58 million and the number of VIPR teams would be cut to 8 from 31, with 277 full-time positions being eliminated, according to the report. The Democratic staff members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee say in the report they were told that even though federal officials say eight VIPR teams can “maintain an acceptable security posture,” the

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No Surveillance Reform in Defense Policy Bill

July 13, 2017

As I predicted 72 hours ago, the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) will not be a vehicle for reforming National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance authorities under Sec. 702 of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA). The twist is that while the House Rules Committee did disallow an amendment to prevent “back door” warrantless searches of the stored communications of Americans (the full NDAA amendment list is available here), the author of all three surveillance reform amendments to the bill, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) withdrew the other two before a Rules Committee vote. Lieu’s office offered the author the following statement on the decision:
Mr. Lieu has always been a strong advocate for protecting our civil liberties and our privacy. He introduced these NDAA amendments (which have

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#Russiagate Update: Winner Leak Implications

June 6, 2017

Megyn Kelly is probably kicking herself for not delaying her interview of Vladimir Putin. Had she waited just a few days, she could’ve brought a leaked copy of the latest NSA estimate of the timeline, motivations, and targets of alleged Russian hackers during the 2016 election cycle to her chat with Putin and asked a lot of pointed questions about it. Even though that opportunity never materialized, she and other journalists still have the chance to ask some equally important questions of American officials about this rather interesting document and the young woman responsible for sharing it with the world. What follows are some of my suggested lines of inquiry for our friends in the Fourth Estate.
The Leaker: Reality Leigh Winner
As I read The Intercept’s story, I kept asking myself

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The Stealth Fusion Center Data Sharing Bill

May 17, 2017

The attention of most in Congress, the media, and the privacy rights community has been focused this spring on the looming Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments (FAA) Act Section 702 reauthorization fight, generally for good reasons. However, other expansions of domestic surveillance powers and data sharing are getting far less attention—and one such measure before the House today may dramatically expand the kind of information state and local law enforcement agencies can get from the federal government.
Introduced on April 26 by Rep. John Katko (R-NY), the “Improving Fusion Centers’ Access to Information Act” (HR 2169) is designed to plug any “information gaps” in state “fusion centers” by modifying the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to require DHS to
identify Federal databases

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Trump Use of Intelligence Questioned

May 16, 2017

Intentionally or otherwise, President Trump continues to make headlines, this time involving allegedly highly sensitive information on ISIS that he shared with senior Russian officials during an Oval Office visit. If, as the Washington Post has alleged, that the information was provided by a U.S. ally in the region and that Trump did not seek the ally’s clearance in advance to share the intelligence with the Russians, it represents potential collateral political damage with said ally. Today, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster held a press conference clearly designed as a damage control operation, although by admitting that “the president wasn’t even aware of where this information came from” he only reinforced the image of Trump as impulsive and careless.
One thing that is not in

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