LESSON 1: INTRODUCTION
1.2 What is U.S. Intelligence Law?
1.2.1 Intelligence Law Generally
Annotated Lecture Transcript
Okay, let’s get down to business.
So, what is U.S. intelligence law?
Intelligence law is just the law governing U.S. intelligence agencies.
That’s the simple answer.
It’s a collection of all the laws that govern how intelligence agencies conduct their daily business.
More specifically, intelligence law is the body of constitutional provisions, congressional statutes, and internal administrative rules and orders governing the collection, retention, analysis and dissemination of information about United States persons, as well as the judicial decisions and administrative issuances interpreting these blackletter provisions.
Believe it or not, every action that takes place inside an intelligence agency is governed by some form of legal rule—just like any other government bureaucracy.
I explain the substance of these rules in later courses.
This first course is designed to teach you the general legal framework that will contain those rules.
This general framework will apply to intelligence agencies regardless of future changes to the substance of the law.
Substantive changes to the law happen all the time as a matter of course, as lawmakers modify legal rules to meet changing circumstances over time.
The general framework, however, remains the same.
Once you master the general framework of federal law in this course, you’ll always be able to understand any changes that might come about in the future.
This course teaches you this framework.
Later courses will fill in the details.
After this first course, all future courses will be focused on explaining the specific legal rules governing actual intelligence operations on the ground.
 See e.g. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, The Attorney General's Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations (Sept. 29, 2008), available at https://intelligencelaw.com/html-only/law_library/admin/current/agency_rules/ag_guidelines_2008.html.
For a 2004 description of some of the old administrative rules used by the Department of Justice to govern intelligence operations see Alfred Cumming & Todd Masse, Congressional Research Serv., FBI Intelligence Reform Since September 11, 2001: Issues and Options for Congress (2004), available at https://intelligencelaw.com/files/pdf/law_library/crs/RL32336_8-4-2004.pdf (“Intelligence Community operations, including domestic intelligence collection, and collection of intelligence on U.S. persons, are governed by a body of laws, regulations and guidelines. With regard to the domestic intelligence collection, for example, the U.S. Department of Justice has promulgated seven successive sets of guidelines governing these efforts since 1976. [Citing “These policy guidelines include The Attorney General’s Guidelines on Domestic Security Investigations (April 5, 1976 — Attorney General Edward H. Levi), The Attorney General Guidelines on Criminal Investigations of Individuals and Organizations Dec. 2, 1980 — Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti), The Attorney General’s Guidelines on General Crimes, Racketeering Enterprise and Domestic Security,/Terrorism Investigations (Mar. 7, 1983 — Attorney General William French Smith), The Attorney General’s Guidelines on General Crimes, Racketeering Enterprise and Domestic Security/Terrorism Investigations (Mar. 21, 1989 — Attorney General Richard Thornburgh), The Attorney General’s Guidelines on General Crimes, Racketeering Enterprise and Domestic Security/Terrorism Investigations (Memorandum from Acting Deputy Attorney General Jo Ann Harris to Attorney General Janet Reno recommending a change in the guidelines; approved by Attorney General Reno on April 19, 1994.), The Attorney General’s Guidelines on General Crimes, Racketeering Enterprise and Terrorism Enterprise Investigations (May 30, 2002 ¬Attorney General John Ashcroft), and The Attorney General’s Guidelines for FBI National Security Investigations and Foreign Intelligence Collection (U) (Oct. 31, 2003 - Attorney General John Ashcroft). Other guidelines — classified and unclassified - regulating the use of confidential informants, undercover operations, and procedures for lawful, warrant less monitoring of verbal conversations may also play a role in the gathering of domestic intelligence.”]”) (some footnotes omitted).