Back in November, the Senate Intelligence Committee passed its FY 2014 Intelligence Authorization bill. The bill, as passed out of Committee, required the president to issue an annual public report clarifying the total number of “combatants” and “noncombatant civilians” killed or injured by drone strikes in the previous year, without having to divulge the total number of strikes worldwide.
Today, the Guardian reports that the Senate Intelligence Committee has stripped that provision of the bill at the administration's behest:
But the Guardian has confirmed that Senate leaders have removed the language as they prepare to bring the bill to the floor for a vote, after the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, assured them in a recent letter that the Obama administration was looking for its own ways to disclose more about its highly controversial drone strikes.Someone who has committed perjury is not someone who warrants public or congressional trust on such matters.
“The executive branch is currently exploring ways in which it can provide the American people more information about the United States’ use of force outside areas of active hostilities,” Clapper wrote to the leaders of the Senate committee, Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California and Republican Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, on 18 April.
“To be meaningful to the public, any report including the information described above would require context and be drafted carefully so as to protect against the disclosure of intelligence sources and methods or other classified information. … We are confident we can find a reporting structure that provides the American people additional information to inform their understanding of important government operations to protect our nation, while preserving the ability to continue those operations,” Clapper continued.
The stripping of this provision from the bill is unsurprising given its exclusion from the House markup. In November, the House Intelligence Committee voted down (15 to 5) an amendment from Rep. Adam Schiff (CA-28) that would have required such annual reporting.
The Republicans on the Committee unanimously opposed it. Democrats split five in favor (Gutierrez, Himes, Pastor, Schakowsky, Schiff) and four against (Langevin, Ruppersberger, Sewell, Thompson-CA).
Earlier this month, Adam Schiff and Republican Walter Jones (NC-03) introduced a bill on this issue: the Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act. I would expect Schiff's amendment to get a vote when the intelligence authorization bill receives a vote on the House floor.