Obama’s NSA review panel littered with insiders

Having been promised "independent" reviewers, we're getting national intelligence and White House stooges

Topics: NSA, review panel, Transparency, Surveillance, Privacy, James Clapper, national intelligence, White House, Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, , ,

Obama’s NSA review panel — announced to allay public outrage over the spy agency’s near-totalizing surveillance programs — is pure Kabuki theater.

Reports addressing the panel’s composition revealed this weekend that it was largely made up of government national security insiders, with close ties to the White House. The AP’s Stephen Braun went as far as to say “the review panel has effectively been operating as an arm of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA and all other U.S. spy efforts.”

The panel and its operations once again follow the White House’s pattern of feigned transparency, undergirded by fierce and complete executive control over information, oversight and messaging. The review panel highlights what writer Sarah Leonard described in The New Inquiry last year as this administration’s “ideological incoherence” over transparency. Via the AP:

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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.

Even the panel’s official name suggests it’s run by Clapper’s office: “Director of National Intelligence Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies.”

… Four of the five review panel members previously worked for Democratic administrations: Peter Swire, former Office of Management and Budget privacy director under President Bill Clinton; Michael Morell, Obama’s former deputy CIA director; Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism coordinator under Clinton and later for President George W. Bush; and Cass Sunstein, Obama’s former regulatory czar. A fifth panel member, Geoffrey Stone of the University of Chicago, leads a university committee looking to build Obama’s presidential library in Chicago and was an informal adviser to Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

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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