Getting more comfortable by the minute
Tim Lee at the Washington Post reports:
On Friday, President Obama promised to appoint an “independent group” of “outside experts” to review the government’s surveillance programs.
Today, the president formally ordered the formation of this group, giving us a sense forjust how independent the group would be. The announcement doesn’t inspire confidence that the president is interested in truly independent scrutiny of the nation’s surveillance programs.
The panel will be chosen by, and report to, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Clapper famously answered “no sir” when Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked whether the NSA collects information about millions of Americans. Clapper has since conceded that this answer was “clearly erroneous.”
And there are other signs that the group won’t turn out quite the way the president described it on Friday. Friday’s speech talked about the need for input from outside experts with independent points of view. The president made no mention of the need for outsiders or independent viewpoints in his memo to Clapper.
The stated mission of the group has also shifted. On Friday, Obama said the group would examine “how we can maintain the trust of the people, how we can make sure that there absolutely is no abuse.” But today’s memo makes no mention of preventing abuses. Instead, it will examine whether U.S. surveillance activity “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.”
Also no mention of making sure the programs adhere to both the letter and spirit of the constitution. It's still all about "trusting the professionals" (also known as "maintaining the public trust") and making citizens "comfortable" with broad surveillance programs (also known as training them to be unquestioning and obedient.)
If only that Edward Snowden character hadn't spilled the beans the president would have been able to make us comfortable with these programs without us even knowing it. Oh heck.