Obama’s “independent” intelligence review group selected by DNI Clapper

After his speech about transparency and greater oversight over US surveillance programs, as well as the announcement about forming an “independent”, “high-level group of outside experts to review our entire intelligence and communications technologies [-¦] particularly our surveillance technologies,” US president Barack Obama has issued a memorandum on Monday, ordering for a Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies to be formed immediately.

The news would have instilled some hope in US citizens worried about their privacy were it not for the fact that the memo was directed at the Director of National Intelligence – none other than James Clapper, who you might remember for his “least untruthful” statement to the Senate when asked whether the NSA collects any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans and answering “No, sir”.

That means that Clapper is the one who has also been tasked with choosing the members of the Group and receiving their findings in order to report them to Obama.

Also, if you look closely, you might see that the Review Group’s designated mission has also changed from Friday to Monday.

Instead of reviewing US intelligence, surveillance and communications technologies, and considering how the government can make sure that there absolutely is no abuse in terms of how these surveillance technologies are used, the Group “will assess whether [-¦] 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.”

“In exactly 72 hours, Obama replaced words ‘outside’ & ‘independent’ with words ‘Director of National Intelligence’,” blogger and author Marcy Wheeler commented on Twitter.

“White House asks Cookie Monster to coordinate independent review of Sesame Street’s excessive cookie consumption,” remarked privacy researcher and activist Chris Soghoian.

In the meantime, US congressman Justin Amash claims that there has also not been much transparency in Congress regarding the details about the surveillance programs.

He shared with The Guardian that prior to his amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2014 that would curtail funding for NSA’s collection of electronic communication data being shot down in the US House of Representatives, the members of the House intelligence committee withheld “critically important information pertaining to a program” contained in a document that, in fact, stated that the NSA is collecting phone records of Americans.

Amash claims that nobody of the representatives elected in 2010 that he has spoken to remembers seeing such document a document, and at least one representative (Rush Holt) confirmed not having been aware of it.

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