Well, this is rather incredible. Remember on Friday how one of President Obama’s efforts to get people to trust the government more concerning the NSA’s surveillance efforts was to create an “outside” and “independent” board to review it all? Specifically, he said:
Fourth, 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.
Okay. Outside, independent. Sure, that might help. Except, that was Friday. Today is Monday. And, on Monday we learn that “outside” and “independent” actually means setup by Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper — the same guy who has already admitted to lying to Congress about the program, and has received no punishment for doing so. This is independent? From this we’re supposed to expect real oversight?!? This is from the letter sent to Clapper:
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.
In case you didn’t catch that, he’s asking Clapper to first create and set up this “outside” and “independent” review group… and then to have the group report its findings back to Clapper. The same strong defender of the program who flat out lied to Congress about it. If this was about “restoring the trust” of the American people that the government isn’t pulling a fast one over on them, President Obama sure has a funny way of trying to rebuild that trust. This seems a lot more like giving the concerns of the American public a giant middle finger.