Oliver North

Washington, D.C. -- This week's revelation about the president's authorizing covert action in Syria should not have come as a surprise to anyone. On Wednesday, August 1, CNN carried a breathless report sourced to "U.S. officials" that our beloved Nobel Peace Prize recipient in the Oval Office "has signed a covert directive authorizing U.S. support for Syrian rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad." According to the story, which was picked up by dozens of other outlets within hours, "The secret order, referred to as an intelligence 'finding,' allows for clandestine support by the CIA and other agencies."

Given the torrent of self-adulatory leaks since the O-Team arrived in Washington three and a half years ago, this should have been the non-story of the month. But the mainstream media fell for it faster than Missy Franklin could swim 100 meters. That's just what the O-Team wanted -- and has come to expect.

It turns out the story is true. Obama did sign a "finding" -- a document required by the 1974 Hughes-Ryan Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act. The Nixon-era law compels a president to notify Congress that he has formally authorized a "covert" U.S. intelligence activity that goes beyond the collection of information, and that the activity is important to U.S. national security.

As a result of Hughes-Ryan, Congress set up "permanent select committees" in the House and Senate and committed to protect sensitive sources, methods, identities and operational details that would put Americans and/or our allies at risk. Both committees were provided special access facilities where classified material could be discussed, debated and stored. Members of the committee staffs are subject to background investigations and granted security clearances.

In the 38 years since Hughes-Ryan and the "presidential finding" process was instituted, not a single year has passed without the unauthorized disclosure of very sensitive national security information. Just months after the procedures were put in place, the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times carried articles describing a CIA covert operation to recover and exploit a sunken Soviet nuclear submarine in the Pacific. Later that year, the names of dozens of CIA personnel working undercover overseas were published. Shortly thereafter, Richard Welch -- the CIA station chief in Athens, Greece -- was murdered.

Oliver North

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.