That’s correct, the “independent” commission set to review the NSA will be overseen by four men who have spent their careers in Washington and in the intelligence community. President Obama’s selections of a “high-level group of outside experts” is in fact quite “high-level,” the only issue being that there is nothing remotely “outside” about them. No official announcement has been made, however ABC has reported that Michael Morell, Richard Clarke, Cass Sunstein, and Peter Swire will be the four individuals ultimately in charge of the reviews. Following is a brief background on these gentlemen. It’s worth noting that Peter Swire has been publicly critical of the NSA of late and has even challenged the data collection via Verizon as unconstitutional.
- Michael Morell – His CIA career began in 1980 and he eventually became the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and has served as Acting Director twice in 2011 and from 2012 to 2013.
- Richard A. Clarke – Public face of the government’s “war on terror” during Clinton and George W. Bush administration as “counter-terrorism czar.” Was officially named the National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism for the United States.
- Cass Sunstein – In 2002, at the height of controversy over Bush’s creation of military commissions without Congressional approval, Sunstein stepped forward to insist, “Under existing law, President George W. Bush has the legal authority to use military commissions” and that “President Bush’s choice stands on firm legal ground.”
- Peter Swire – During his time in the Clinton Administration, Swire also chaired a 15-agency White House Working Group on updating wiretap law for the Internet age.
The conflicts of interest are plenty while the hopes for real reform of privacy protection are faint. Amie Stepanovich, the director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s (EPIC) domestic surveillance project doesn’t have much confidence in the upcoming “independent review.”
“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.”
Additional readings on privacy and NSA revelations
- New Zealand Takes A Page From Book Of NSA, Passes Spy Law
- Founder Of Encryption Service Lavabit Speaks On Government-Ordered Shutdown
- Michigan Representative Defends Edward Snowden
- Surveillance Grows: FBI Admits To Domestic Drone Use
- NSA Stretches Interpretation Of Patriot Act While Bamboozling Lawmakers