In the wake of seemingly endless leaks from ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden, President Obama’s attempt to manage the political fallout seems destined to fail.
On Friday, Obama announced that he would form a “high-level group of outside experts” to review intelligence and communications technologies. This group, Obama said, would be “independent” — able to step back freely — to review surveillance technologies and “consider how we can maintain trust of the people.”
It only took the weekend for much of any trust in that group to fade.
On Monday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed that yes, the review group would happen. He also confirmed that, yes, he would be establishing it.
This is the same James Clapper who gave false information to Congress when asked whether the NSA was collecting data on Americans. He later apologized.
Perhaps most interesting in Clapper’s statement on Monday is the absence of wording used on Friday: independent, and outside. In an expanded statement, the White House said the group would present their interim findings to his office, and the final report would go “through the Director of National Intelligence.”
“In practice — not theory — Clapper gets to chop the draft of the interim and final reports, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence would — again, in practice — assist in selecting the members of the review group,” Robert Caruso, a former assistant command security manager in the Navy and consultant, said in an email.
This arrangement is sure to arouse suspicions, with many Americans showing distrust after leaks of previously unknown spying programs. Even Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a veteran politician and national security hawk, admitted as much to Fox News Sunday:
“Right now there’s kind of a generational change. Young Americans do not trust this government,” McCain said. “Without trusting government you can’t do a lot of things.”
Still, Caruso believes there can be good to come from such a review. “I trust [Clapper] has the best intentions at heart.” But on whether that final report would be transparent or heavily redacted, he told me, “we’ll have to wait and see.”
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