These are the “outside experts” he promised?
ABC reports that the Obama administration’s surveillance review panel will include former intelligence and White House staffers, including Michael Morell, Richard Clarke, Cass Sunstein and Peter Swire. An official announcement of the members of the panel is expected soon.
The review panel was first announced in a White House press conference on Aug. 9, when Obama said the administration would form “a high-level group of outside experts to review our entire intelligence and communications technologies.”
Privacy advocates aren’t happy with the composition of the group revealed so far. Some privacy groups believe that the White House will insist on all members having top secret clearances, effectively barring most independent privacy watchdogs from consideration for the panel.
Amie Stepanovich, director of the domestic surveillance project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) found the choices reported by ABC troubling:
An independent evaluation of the NSA’s surveillance programs is needed. 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.
Michael Morell was a career intelligence officer, serving in the CIA for 33 years. He retired from his position as deputy director of the CIA earlier this year after serving two stints as the agency’s acting head during President Obama’s tenure.