The extra-territorial targeting by the Special Operations Command, in contrast, is something that the intelligence committees know little about. The Armed Services Committees know more, but the programs are chartered under something called a “waived SAP,” — a “special access program” that requires only oral briefings be given to a small group of members of Congress. Certain sensitive activities aren’t briefed at all. Special reconnaissance missions into denied areas are not considered to be significant intelligence operations, especially if they are conducted in accordance with an anticipated future overt military campaign. (True!).

The reason why Congress doesn’t know a lot about the non-Pakistani elements of the drone program is that the military controls information flow. It has the right to keep operations secret. It is does not have an obligation to inform Congress unless its action crosses over a fuzzy line separating clandestine intelligence collection and covert action from “traditional military activities,” a phrase which is deliberately very broad.

If, for example, the Joint Special Operations Command secrets a team into Iran and taps into an Iranian military communications cable, the notification matrix will be small and after the fact. After all, conflict with Iran, overt conflict, is anticipated. JSOC is simply preparing the battlefield for a future war, god forbid. If the CIA does it, Congress gets notified in a finding.