Kelly describes the secrecy of the program and - referring to a New York Times report - notes that "the reason the CIA didn't brief this to Congress sooner was because Dick Cheney told them not to." Inskeep then asks Kelly a reasonable question: "Was anybody at the CIA actually legally required to tell Congress about this?" And this is where things get really strange. Kelly replies,
"It's actually not 100% clear. The law that governs this is called the National Security Act of 1947 and it's been amended many times since then, but the relevant portion is this: 'Congress must be notified about all significant intelligence activities; also' - and this is important - 'all significant, anticipated intelligence activities.' So the question becomes What is significant?, Who gets to decide?, and clearly in the case of this particular program, people came out with very different views about whether it met the standard."Ah yes, like that wily word torture, significant is such a relative term - open to so many shades of interpretation. Hmmm....just what could significant mean? Funny thing is that Kelly opened the story noting that "what we do know is this: it was a covert program, clearly began back in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks. It continued in an on-again-off-again fashion up until last year." She also noted that "there is a lot of speculation that it had to do with a presidential authorization after 9/11 to capture or kill al-Qaeda leaders, so we're talking about using lethal force..." Ah yes, but whether a SEVEN YEAR covert program (and one that likely meant killing people) is significant is just so hard to really figure out.
Frankly the focus on "significant" is a red herring since the law amending the Security Act (P.L. 102-88 - go to page 13 of the PDF file here) clearly states "The President shall ensure that the intelligence committees are kept fully and currently informed of the intelligence activities of the United States, [kind of looks "100% clear" to me], including any significant anticipated intelligence activities as required by this title."
Kelly's not done yet. If nothing else she's determined. Not only is she playing the torture the English language game, but she closes up by advocating for criminal behavior by the executive branch. Even if the federal law was broken, Kelly notes that
"one former intelligence official I spoke to said, 'Look, the CIA didn't tell Congress about this because they didn't want it to leak' so they kept it to themselves and it didn't leak for EIGHT years. Last month it was briefed to Congress and now hear we are talking about it. So they've made a pretty compelling case for why the CIA might not want to tell Congress."If only I were making this stuff up. Yep, that is one compelling case for breaking federal laws meant to maintain checks and balances. Apparently, Kelly didn't actually read the law because it also states on page 13 of the PDF copy of P.L 102-88 that
"Nothing in this Act shall be construed as authority to withhold information from the intelligence committees on the grounds that providing the information to the intelligence committees would constitute the unauthorized disclosure of classified information...."So much for that compelling case. Given her masterful legal interpretations, I'd say Mary Louise Kelly missed her opportunity to work for the Bush-Cheney OLC....hey there's always the CIA, unless she's already....one can only wonder.