Following a healthy dose of outrage in response to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's announcement that he would be establishing a Review Group to assess his own agency's surveillance programs, the White House has jumped in and is reassuring precisely nobody.
The Obama administration insists that there's been some confusion and lack of clarity about the situation, (which he have well come to expect with regards to NSA spy programs). Indeed it was Clapper who told Congress that no Americans were surveilled when we no know the opposite to be true.
But, stresses the White House, Clapper will not be overseeing the review of his own agency, but simply "establishing" the review group of independent parties. Clapper's role will be one of facilitation, not oversight, say national security spokespeople. Via the Guardian:
"The panel members are being selected by the White House, in consultation with the intelligence community," national security council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.
The DNI had to be involved for administrative reasons, because the panel would need security clearance and access to classified material, she added.
....She added that the panel members woul be appointed soon.
"The panel will not report to the DNI. As the DNI's statement yesterday made clear, the review group will brief its interim findings to the president within 60 days of its establishment, and provide a final report with recommendations no later than December 15 2013."
She added: "As we announced on Friday, the review group will be made up of independent, outside experts. The DNI's role is one of facilitation, and the group is not under the direction of or led by the DNI.
"The members require security clearances and access to classified information so they need to be administratively connected to the government, and the DNI's office is the right place to provide that. The review process and findings will be the group's."
It's worth remembering, however, what Clapper said about the purpose of the review group he is establishing: to assess the national security efficacy of the sweeping surveillance programs, while attempting to build "public trust." Nowhere has it been said that upholding Fourth Amendment protections, privacy and civil liberties is within the review group's remit -- whether it is merely run or simply established by Clapper.