Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2009

Publication Citation

84 Indiana Law Journal 637 (2009)


Congress and the media recently have claimed that various activities of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)-from rendition operations, to the destruction of videotapes, to the maintenance of secret detention facilities overseas--are illegal. Critics levied similar charges against the CIA thirty-five years ago, with regard to activities contained in the "Family Jewels"--the 1973 compilation of the CIA's darkest secrets. The recent release of the Family Jewels provides the opportunity to try to put today's concerns in perspective. This Article evaluates the key activities conducted by the CIA as described in the Family Jewels-experimentation on unconsenting individuals, attempted targeted killings of foreign leaders, electronic surveillance of Americans, examination of U.S. mail, and collection of information on American dissident movements. Contrary to widely held beliefs both then and now, all but one of these activities (experimentation on unconsenting individuals) were legal when they were committed, suggesting that other allegedly "illegal" activities, engaged in by the CIA now, may similarly prove to be lawful.