The White House has made public its picks for the review panel that will investigate data collection practices at the National Security Agency (NSA). According to a report on the make up of the panel, it will be led by former CIA head Michael Morrell. Morrell was acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency until March of 2013.


Morrell will be joined by former State Department official Richard Clarke, and privacy spokesperson Peter Swire and legal academic Cass Sunstein. The panel plans to compile a report on data handling for the National Intelligence Director James Clapper within 60 days. According to reports, however, Clapper will only receive the report as a matter of course—the panel’s responsibility is directly to President Obama.

Obama administration concessions

the Obama administration has been making efforts to improve perception of its privacy policies. Those problems began in a major way with the NSA scandal, and further revelations about that scandal have continued to damage public opinion. Yesterday it became clear that the agency had collected and stored thousands of emails, with some coming from ordinary Americans unconnected with terrorism.

Though President Obama called the panel a “high-level group of outside experts,” although all four members of the panel have worked with the White House in the past. Michael Morrell was recently the head of the CIA, Peter Swire worked on the Obama administration’s National Economics Council, Cass Sunstein was Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for Obama, and  Richard Clarke worked on the United States National Security Council Until 2003.

NSA leak controversy

The NSA data collection scandal is not going away, and the creation of a panel to study the issue is not going to do away with the concerns of privacy advocates and concerned citizens. The leaks have dominated much of the news cycle since Edward Snowden revealed the full extent of the program earlier this year.

President Obama announced this panel two weeks ago. In the speech where he announced the group’s formation, he said it will “consider how we can maintain the trust of the people [and] how we can make sure that there absolutely is no abuse.”