Washington insiders appointed to 'independent' NSA review panel – report

The Obama administration will appoint a group of former White House officials and security experts who have spent their careers working in intelligence to oversee the review of National Security Agency surveillance programs, according to a new report.

While an official announcement remains forthcoming, ABC reported
that the review panel will include Michael Morell, Richard
Clarke, Cass Sunstein, and Peter Swire. Each of the four men have
held high positions in the Obama administration, a stipulation
that privacy advocates quickly noticed despite Obama’s pledge
that the review commission would consist of a “high-level
group of outside experts
.” 

Morell’s presence, in particular, has drawn the ire of NSA
opponents because he has worked at the CIA in a variety of ways
since 1980. He was President Bush’s intelligence briefer on
September 11, 2001 and retired from his position as deputy
director of the CIA earlier this year. 

Amie Stepanovich, the director of the Electronic Privacy
Information Center’s (EPIC) domestic surveillance project, told
the Washington Post that the appointments are not encouraging for
privacy advocates. 

An independent evaluation of the NSA’s surveillance programs
is needed
,” she said. “But a worthwhile review requires an
independent team of evaluators. We continue to learn how each of
the oversight mechanisms that the administration has pointed to
have continuously failed. The background of this panel indicates
that it, too, is unlikely to be meaningful or
effective
.” 

Despite all four men having backgrounds in the upper echelon of
government, optimists are encouraged by Swire’s presence on the
oversight board. Currently a professor at the Georgia Institute
of Technology, Swire criticized what he perceived as surveillance
abuse in the Bush administration and has signed two amicus briefs
to the Supreme Court challenging the NSA programs disclosed by
Edward Snowden in June. 

One of the briefs signed by Swire said the NSA’s order to Verizon
to hand over millions of phone call logs and data “clearly
violates the law and presents an extraordinary risk to personal
privacy of millions of US persons…Such sweeping collection of
data about individuals who ‘have done nothing to warrant
government suspicion…has the potential to be a 21st century
equivalent of general searches
.’” 

During an interview last month with Information Security Media
Group, Swire argued that the time has come for less secrecy
around government programs and called for restraint given the
nation’s current technological capabilities. 

The problem with great big databases is, once they exist,
people find way to use them
,” he said. “I also think the
collection about Americans doing domestic calls is highly
questionable under the Fourth Amendment
.” 

The review panel will meet in 60 days and provide an interim
report to the director of national intelligence, James Clapper,
who will then brief the President on the group’s determinations.
ABC noted that the aforementioned list may be incomplete. An
official White House announcement is expected soon.

Republished from: RT