The Central Intelligence Agency's 'Family Jewels': Legal Then? Legal Now?

Indiana Law Journal, Vol. 84, p. 637, 2009

51 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2009 Last revised: 17 Feb 2009

Date Written: January 19, 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.

Keywords: Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, Family Jewels, national security

Suggested Citation

Pines, Daniel L., The Central Intelligence Agency's 'Family Jewels': Legal Then? Legal Now? (January 19, 2009). Indiana Law Journal, Vol. 84, p. 637, 2009, Available at SSRN:

Daniel L. Pines (Contact Author)

Central Intelligence Agency ( email )

Office of Public Affairs
Washington, DC 20505
United States

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