The NSA Review Panel Is An Even Bigger Joke Than We Previously Thought

Today the AP reported that President Barack Obama’s promised NSA review panel is channeling the entity that it is supposed to inspect, hiding behind layers of government bureaucracy and obfuscating its work.

The AP states that the review panel is lodged in offices provided by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Even more, the DNI is running its media strategy, vetting requests through its own press office. Any whiff of independence that the group might have hoped to engender is now certainly gone.

Not that it got off to a good start. The panel was stacked with, as I reported in late August, “a slurry of insiders, former insiders, and a previous colleague of the president.” So, it was hardly the “high-level group of outside experts” that the president had promised.

Now, ensconced inside the entity that it is supposed to vet, surrounded and apparently managed by those very organs, the panel is rapidly approaching punchline status.

The AP has more, almost comically. I quote to preserve the dryness of its writing:

James Clapper, the intelligence director, exempted the panel from U.S. rules that require federal committees to conduct their business and their meetings in ways the public can observe. Its final report, when it’s issued, will be submitted for White House approval before the public can read it.

So, in short, Clapper, the head of the DNI, exempted the group that he is currently housing, that is supposed to be vetting his work, from rules requiring their work to be public. Transparency! And, whatever they come up with will of course have to be approved for publishing.

“We need new thinking for a new era,” the president stated when announcing that the panel would be formed. We do, he’s correct. But when those hired to think are old friends of either the agency in question or former associates of its boss (the president), and whose thoughts are potentially withheld from the public, we don’t make any progress at all.

The point of hiring “outsiders” to vet the NSA and our lager surveillance activities is that they don’t have allegiance to the folks inside. We didn’t get that. But to top that failure off by absconding the panel behind the very curtains it was supposed to cast open is simply disgraceful.

At least we have something to laugh about over lunch: “Remember when they said the panel was going to be full of outside experts, and provide a real check to the NSA’s views on privacy?” Ha ha.

Top Image Credit: Zoe Rudisill