Power Wars Blog by Charlie Savage

Power Wars: Clarifications and Errata

My hope for Power Wars is that people will still be using it many years from now as the definitive investigative history of post-9/11 policymaking in the Obama era. So I want it to be as clear and accurate as I can make it. To that end, I have made some adjustments in subsequent printings.

First, since I turned in the book in August, I found a few places where I used the same word twice in awkwardly close proximity; instances where I referred to people by their last names when I had not mentioned them before or not for many pages; etc.  I also found several places where I could express certain thoughts with greater clarity. So I have tweaked such things as I found them.

Second, in a few places, more information subsequently became available and so I added it – sometimes trimming other bits to make room for it on the page. In September, as a result of one of my Freedom of Information Act lawsuits with the New York Times, the government declassified additional portions of the inspector general report on the Stellarwind surveillance program, revealing a previously hidden dimension to the 2004 “hospital room” crisis.  And I also learned additional details about the lawyering for the Osama Bin Laden raid, which were reflected in my Times article last week that was largely derived from the book. The original print run of the hardcover, for example, says CIA general counsel Stephen Preston delivered a briefing in the Situation Room sometime in late March or early April 2011. By the time of my Times article, I knew it was on April 12, 2011. Future printings of the book will have this additional information.

Most importantly, some of the information I gathered after August improved my level of knowledge about the Bin Laden raid lawyering. As reflected in my Times article, it was Mary DeRosa, the NSC legal adviser, not Preston, whose project was to write the memo explaining why it would be lawful for Obama to order a mission with the objective of killing Bin Laden (subject to a requirement to accept a surrender offer if feasible). I also now think it missed the mark to portray the four lawyers as having “construed extremely narrowly what kind of surrender offer would count as possible to accept.” The military already had rules of engagement for Special Operations Forces raids on potentially booby-trapped terrorist compounds, so a better way to frame it is that the lawyers discussed the implications of authorizing a kill mission and scenarios in which the SEALs might deem apparent surrender offers infeasible to accept. Finally, the early print run said there was a policy memo by DeRosa about legal issues raised by putting SEAL Team Six under CIA direction, but I now think that was a conflation with the paperwork I separately discussed Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel, preparing for the Defense Department to loan SEAL Team Six to the CIA. I am making these updates for future printings, and they are already included in the e-book version.