On Friday President Barack Obama promised to create an outside and independent review board to look into the NSA's surveillance efforts. Today we have learned that the person who has been selected to oversee this undertaking is less than credible. In a letter obtained by TechDirt (thanks EZK), we learn that it's the same old same old in D.C.
On Friday at a press conference the president said all the right things:
"…we're forming a high-level group of outside experts to review our entire intelligence and communications technologies. We need new thinking for a new era. We now have to unravel terrorist plots by finding a needle in the haystack of global telecommunications. And meanwhile, technology has given governments — including our own — unprecedented capability to monitor communications.
So I am tasking this independent group to step back and review our capabilities — particularly our surveillance technologies. And they'll consider how we can maintain the trust of the people, how we can make sure that there absolutely is no abuse in terms of how these surveillance technologies are used, ask how surveillance impacts our foreign policy — particularly in an age when more and more information is becoming public. And they will provide an interim report in 60 days and a final report by the end of this year, so that we can move forward with a better understanding of how these programs impact our security, our privacy, and our foreign policy."
This was what Americans concerned about domestic spying wanted to hear from the Administration. But it looks like that might have just been rhetoric. On Monday a letter surfaced showing that the President has put James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, in charge of creating this review panel. Why is this a big deal? This is the same James Clapper who went before Congress and insisted that the NSA was not spying on Americans. Later, after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked information about several NSA spying programs, Clapper admitted that he lied.
Well apparently the White House thinks that this man is the perfect candidate to handle setting up a blue ribbon review panel and then to take the information this panel finds and share it with the White House. From the letter:
"I believe it is important to take stock of how these technological advances alter the environment in which we conduct our intelligence mission. To this end, by the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I am directing you to establish a Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies (Review Group).
The Review Group will assess whether, in light of advancements in communications technologies, the United States employs its technical collection capabilities in a manner that optimally protects our national security and advances our foreign policy while appropriately accounting for other policy considerations, such as the risk of unauthorized disclosure and our need to maintain the public trust. Within 60 days of its establishment, the Review Group will brief their interim findings to me through the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), and the Review Group will provide a final report and recommendations to me through the DNI no later than December 15, 2013."
Not only is the President asking Clapper – a man who lied to Congress – to set up this panel, but he is also asking that the findings of this panel be reported to Clapper, who we can apparently trust to deliver those findings to the White House.
You can read the president's letter to Clapper on TechDirt. It's easy to understand why Americans concerned about spying see this latest move to create a review panel as a bit of a joke. If a man is willing to lie to Congress, he's probably capable of doing just about anything to avoid any more information that cast aspersions on the NSA's spying activities from getting out…