A group of experts appointed to review the surveillance engaged in by the National Security Agency and other US intelligence agencies is working under the control Office of the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and is not focused on investigating surveillance abuses that former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden has exposed.
He also said, “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.”
Not only did the public get a “high-level group” of people who should not be considered “outside experts,” but the public got a group that has been conducting a review with a focus on “moving forward, not looking back,” the mantra of President Barack Obama for excusing abuses of executive power and one that expressly benefits those responsible for unchecked policies or programs.
The Associated Press reports on how the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, run by James Clapper, has been overseeing the group. ODNI runs the NSA and “all other spy efforts” and is the last agency one would give control to a review of spying that was supposed to be conducted by an “outside group.”
The panel’s advisers work in offices on loan from the DNI. Interview requests and press statements from the review panel are carefully coordinated through the DNI’s press office. James Clapper, the intelligence director, exempted the panel from U.S. rules that require federal committees to conduct their business and their meetings in ways the public can observe. Its final report, when it’s issued, will be submitted for White House approval before the public can read it.
Yet, for weeks now, it has been obvious this review would be a whitewash designed as a reset—an opportunity to make it seem like the intelligence community had addressed concerns about policies or programs while at the same time moving onward with renewed confidence and less scrutiny from the press and public.
When Clapper formed the group, that was the first sign. Clapper should not have been the one forming the group.
Then, there was the statement put out announcing its formation:
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.
It would be examining collection and surveillance capabilities. But no person criticizes the agency for its inability to collect and conduct surveillance. If anything, a review responsive to public criticism would assess whether the “national security” could be protected by utilizing surveillance capabilities to a far lesser extent.
Also, in that bureaucratic description of that group, there is no hint that Clapper is even remotely interested in helping the group investigate any alleged abuses by the intelligence community.
Then, there were the appointments. Michael Morell, Richard Clarke, Cass Sunstein, Peter Swire and Geoffrey Stone were appointed to be a part of this review group.