Obama’s kabuki NSA review panel

Attendees of first meeting say changes to vast surveillance programs was not discussed amidst industry interests

Topics: review panel, NSA, tech giants, Silicon Valley, intelligence, Surveillance, Barack Obama, Privacy, fourth amendment, , ,

Obama's kabuki NSA review panel (Credit: shutterstock)

Two participants who took part in the first meeting of a review panel, set up by the president to guide reforms to the NSA’s vast surveillance programs, came away unimpressed Spencer Ackerman reported for the Guardian Friday.

The interests of major tech firms dominated discussion, the participants (Robert Atkinson, the president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and Sascha Meinrath, a vice president of the New America Foundation) said, noting that reforms to better protect U.S. citizens’ privacy went unmentioned. Indeed, the review panel is largely composed of intelligence and government insiders.

“My fear is it’s a simulacrum of meaningful reform… Its function is to bleed off pressure, without getting to the meaningful reform,” said Meinrath.

Via Ackerman:

The Obama administration and the tech firms involved have intimated that they are interested in changing the surveillance activities, although neither has committed to concrete steps.

That was how Obama portrayed the creation of the panel on 9 August, when he announced its creation in a press conference: “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.”

But critics have noted from the start that the panel is composed of intelligence insiders, former White House officials and Obama advisers.

…Meinrath said the technology industry’s concerns dominated the 90-minute session. He came away with the impression “they were going through the roles. It was almost scripted.”

Atkinson said the panel did not discuss the scope of NSA surveillance.

Natasha Lennard
Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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