President Obama has appointed embattled NSA director James Clapper—who was already caught lying under oath to Congress and the U.S. public about the scope of secret surveillance—to establish a review board to investigate his own agency as part of the president's so-called transparency reforms.
Obama declared in a speech Friday that he would convene an independent panel of "outside experts" to look into NSA surveillance policies and produce a report within 60 days.
Critics scoffed at the idea that someone with Clapper's track record would have anything to do with the panel.
Clapper announced Monday, "At the direction of the President, I am establishing the Director of National Intelligence Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies to examine our global signals-intelligence collection and surveillance capability."
"The Review Group," Clapper continued, "will assess whether, in light of advancements in communications technologies, 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."
Notably missing from Clapper's statement was any mention of spying abuses and overreach, despite widespread anger about the secret surveillance.
Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the Department of National Intelligence, claims that Clapper will "establish" the group but will not appoint its members, with that responsibility left to the White House. It is not clear what exactly this "establishing" role entails, or who will appoint the panel.
Nonetheless, critics charged that any involvement on the part of Clapper demonstrates the emptiness of Obama's supposed reforms.
"It is inappropriate for Clapper, who has misled Congress and the American people, to be their conduit for the findings of the review group," Lisa Graves, executive Director for the Center for Media and Democracy, told Common Dreams. "It provides no confidence to the American people that this review will be independent or truthful."
"The American public demands more information and more transparency," wrote Electronic Frontier Foundation policy analyst Mark Jaycox in a statement sent to Common Dreams. "Every week new details come to light about misconstrued statements from the leaders of the intelligence community and new details on even more spying. Congress must reassert its oversight role by setting up a special investigatory committee or independent investigation."