U.S. Spy Agencies Agree to Warn Possible Victims of Attacks and Kidnapping

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The U.S. intelligence community has adopted a formal policy to warn potential victims of terrorism and other attacks, but with several exceptions.


Under an Intelligence Community Directive entitled “Duty to Warn” approved by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper in July, American spy operations are called upon to notify those targeted by terrorists and others. The possible victims could be Americans or non-Americans, as well as institutions, businesses, structures and locations.


The directive, however, contains several examples of when U.S. intelligence agencies could skip notifying someone in the line of fire. For instance, if the notification “would unduly endanger U.S. government personnel, sources, methods, intelligence operations, or defense operations,” an agency could disregard the policy. Same goes if tipping off someone might compromise U.S. methods and means for collecting intelligence.


Also, the notification requirement “does not apply in cases where the threat emanates from the U.S. government itself, whether in combat operations or in ‘covert’ targeted killing programs,” according to the Federation of American Scientists.


The directive states that the requirement would be waived when “There is a reasonable basis for believing that the intended victim is a terrorist, a direct supporter of terrorists, an assassin, a drug trafficker, or involved in violent crimes.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Intelligence Agencies Have a “Duty to Warn” Endangered Persons (by Steven Aftergood, Federation of American Scientists)

Duty to Warn (Office of the Director of National Intelligence) (pdf)


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