Obama’s NSA ‘Independent’ Review Clearly a Public Relations Move

"Maybe if we changed the color of the iris? Light blue tests better in focus groups."Credit: Truthout.org / Foter / CC BY-NC-SABack in August, ABC News noted that the “outside” experts President Barack Obama has brought in to review the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs appeared to be populated by former administration officials, raising questions of how independent this group is going to be.

Over the weekend, the Associated Press took a look at what was going on (well as close as they could, you’ll see) and concluded pretty much what you’d expect at this point: There is very little indication that this review is actually going to be independent, and the meetings are closed to the public, even though there’s been no discussion of classified information. The AP notes:

[W]ith just weeks remaining before its first deadline to report back to the White House, the review panel has effectively been operating as an arm of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA and all other U.S. spy efforts.

The panel's advisers work in offices on loan from the DNI. Interview requests and press statements from the review panel are carefully coordinated through the DNI's press office. 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.

Even the panel's official name suggests it's run by Clapper's office: "Director of National Intelligence Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies."

I wondered back in August when nudge czar Cass Sunstein was named to the review panel whether this meant the administration saw the whole scandal as a marketing problem rather than an actual constitutional and privacy problem. AP reporter Stephen Braun raises those same concerns:

The formal White House memorandum days later — effectively the legal charter for the group — does not specify anything about its role being independent of the Obama administration. It directed the panel to emphasize in its review whether U.S. spying programs protect national security, advance foreign policy and are protected against the types of leaks that led to the national debate in the first place. The final consideration in the White House memo told the panel to examine "our need to maintain the public trust." There was no mention of the panel investigating surveillance abuses.

The review panel, in a statement released through the DNI's press office, confirmed to the AP that Clapper had exempted it from the U.S. Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires such committees to conduct open meetings and notify the public about their activities. It said Clapper made the decision because of the "highly classified nature of their review," but added: "We are conducting this review as openly and transparently as possible." In private meetings so far, several attendees said their discussions did not mention any classified activities and that the panel members steered them away from doing so.

Several tech company representatives attended a session (but phone companies did not, Braun noted). They were not left with the impression that any surveillance reform was actually under consideration:

Neither session, according to participants, gave any hint of changes under consideration.

"Any time someone brought up what was at the heart of these issues," [Sascha] Meinrath, [director of the Open Technology Institute], said, "we were told to put that into record on the website, or else we were told it was classified."

It kind of reminds me when city governments have “community meetings” to get feedback in advance of their regular master plan updates, and then introduce whatever they and their consultants had already cooked up anyway and simply say that community participation played a role, all evidence to the contrary.

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  • The Late P Brooks||

    I am shocked that you would make such an assertion.

  • Almanian!||

    Ohhhhm snap. Great minds and all that...

  • Almanian!||

    The final consideration in the White House memo told the panel to examine "our need to maintain the public trust." There was no mention of the panel investigating surveillance abuses.

    And narcissistic administration is narcissistic.

    Well, here's my fucking SHOCKED FACE, AGAIN. This admin can't get gone soon enough. I've worn out my SHOCKED FACE with these assholes...my SHOCKED FACE muscles are getting tired.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    [comment redacted]

  • Almanian!||

    *SHOCKED FACE*

  • UnCivilServant||

    You forgot to initial the redaction as per policy procedure document [redacted]UCS

  • Michael Price||

    He didn't, it's just that the initials were redacted.
    Signed,
    [redacted]

  • John||

    What should scare everyone is how the IC community has managed to completely infiltrate and co-opt both parties. For most of the post war period, the IC community and Democratic Party were not friends. It was the Democrats who ran the Church Commission. It was the New Left who mostly were concerned about the CIA during the Cold War. But here we are in 2013 and the most left wing Democratic Administration since FDR is closing ranks and doing anything and everything to cover for the NSA. The intelligence community now owns the entire Washington establishment.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Pretty much the same during the Clinton administration. That ship has sailed.

  • John||

    IN fairness, Clinton was very strict about keeping the IC community out of the US. All that ended with 911. And everything Bush did, Obama has taken to 11.

    I think what happened was the Obama people had no idea what they were doing. They had a few platitudes and not much else. So they got in power and found out being in power and being in a position where you might be held responsible if something bad happened is really hard. So what they did was listened to everything the IC told them and let the IC do whatever it wanted to.

    Worse, they let old Bush hands like Rand Beers and John Brennan basically take control of counter terrorism policy. Both of those guys are huge supporters of a total surveillance state. The Left should hate Beers' guts. But they were so obsessed with Iraq and so charmed by having a Bush guy who objected to it, they embraced him and Bennan too.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Overall, the "national security" elements mostly got their way during the Clinton years. The walls that existed didn't come down until 9/11, true, but they didn't quite have the anything-goes mentality of the present administration. And Congress, for that matter.

  • Almanian!||

    Yep. Sucks to be a citizen in this environment.

    Although, hey - it's not like we live in SOMALIA or something.

    But give Rand Paul time...

  • UnCivilServant||

    They were inspired by Putin. If the KGB could take over Russia, they could take over the US.

  • tarran||

    What should scare everyone is how the IC community has managed to completely infiltrate and co-opt both parties. For most of the post war period, the IC community and Democratic Party were not friends.

    I don't agree with this...

    I think it's definitely true of the post-Watergate era, but during the Eisonhower/Kennedy era, the intelligence community, particularly the CIA was very friendly with the Democratic establishment. At the time the CIA was recruiting very heavily from Ivy League schools.

    My memory is pretty hazy, but I think there were a couple of chapters in Legacy of Ashes that were devoted to the close relationship. Incidentally, that was also the period where CIA money was used to purchase a stake in Time magazine. For some reason this amuses me.

  • John||

    True that Dem administrations abused the hell out of the CIA. But they would have at least publicly been embarrassed about it. This is the first time I have seen a Dem President be so publicly in the pocket of the IC.

  • tarran||

    I think your diagnosis that the Obama people didn't know what they were doing and basically allowed the IC to lead thema round by the nose is pretty spot on.

    I think what we are seeing is literally a reenactment of the fable of the Emperor with No Clothes. And the Obama is now parading naked down the street, and the murmurs of "dude's nekkid" are getting too widespread to be ignored or pretended away.

  • John||

    I was in a lot of the meetings back in 2009 regarding Guantanamo Bay. All I can say about them is that the Obama people were completely surprised that there were no easy answers to what to do with the prisoners there. I really think most of them thought Bush kept the place open for fun or because he liked the feeling of being a villain or something.

    They really were not ready to make hard decisions and assume risk. So they didn't make any decisions and let the IC and counter terrorism community make the decisions for them with the goal of reducing risk as much as possible.

  • db||

    It kind of reminds me when city governments have “community meetings” to get feedback in advance of their regular master plan updates, and then introduce whatever they and their consultants had already cooked up anyway and simply say that community participation played a role, all evidence to the contrary.

    Yeah, the last thing public servants and representatives of the people ever want is for the people to have a say in their own governance beyond a single vote per person.

  • sarcasmic||

    Public means everyone but you.

  • Almanian!||

    OT: Detroit Lions beat the Washington RACISTS in Washington for the first time EVAR yesterday.

    Could this be a harbinger of citizens' ability to win greater freedom from the government in Washington as well?

    *crickets*

    Anyone? Bueller?

  • Brett L||

    I think it is simply that the Racists' defense couldn't cover that little girl from YouTube videos, much less Megatron. Stafford ain't the greatest QB in the league but he can throw a pass within range of Calvin Johnson's freakish reach all day long.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Kind of like the 9/11 Commission when Cheney insisted on an off-record interview with his ventriloquist hand up Dumbya's ass.

  • John||

    Shut up sock puppet. No one reads your posts or cares what you have to say.

  • sarcasmic||

    Darth Cheney and the Halliburton hurricane machine! Muahahahahahaha!

    derp

  • Hyperion||

    But Boooosshhhh!!!

    That's not deflection. No siree, that's honest debate about whether or not this investigation is independent.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    You missed my point. I used a simile to agree about said "independence".


    sim·i·le
    [sim-uh-lee] Show IPA
    noun
    1.
    a figure of speech in which two unlike things are explicitly compared, as in “she is like a rose.” Compare metaphor.

  • Jordan||

    You made an analogy, not a simile, tardboy.

  • Almanian!||

    What Jordan said, Shriek.

    simile - "Shriek is like a fucking retarded donkey."

    analogy - "Shriek's moves goalposts and changes his position like the Cleveland Browns let down their fans."

  • everyone||

    Excellent simile, Shrike. Kind of like your head up Obama'a ass.


    Palin's Buttplug| 9.2.13 @ 5:57PM |#

    If everyone agreed with me I would quit posting.
  • Number 2||

    Barack Obama ran for President in 2008 by promising to be the exact opposite of Cheney and Dubya in every conceivable way, most notably in foreign affairs, civil liberties and transparency.

    So every time you propound a simile or draw a comparison between Cheney and Dubya on the one hand, and Barack Obama on the other, you admit that Obama either lied through his teeth in 2008 or is an abject failure in meeting the standards that he himself set.

    Thank you.

  • db||

    I love how to some folks above, this is out of the control of the President. Unless the president is from an icky other party.

    1. Would you rather imagine that Obama is doing this all on his own, or that an evil cabal had hypnotized him into it, or that he is just too damn stupid or careless to know what's going on and do something about it?

    2. Do you really, really want to get BOOOOSH! off the hook with the same "it's too big to control" bullshit that you credit Obama witg?

  • Hyperion||

    Look, there's no need to worry. All of the worlds problems are being solved by the wondrous and beneficent karma that Obama is exuding. He doesn't actually have to do anything. And it's better if he doesn't actually do anything, really.

    Also, Booosh was worse!

  • The Late P Brooks||

    it's not like we live in SOMALIA or something.

    I'm going to mine the road across my property and collect tolls.

  • Hyperion||

    We're not some Banana Republic! We pay our bills, whether we have the money, or not! Because, you're fair share is about to get bigger!

  • Hyperion||

    your

  • UnCivilServant||

    I hope you pick the kind of mine you can turn off to let the toll payers pass un-exploded.

  • Shirley Knott||

    Nah, the purest government spirit insists "why bother, there's plenty more where that one came from".

  • Killazontherun||

    You can use my toll road instead of Brooks if you like. Same price, but there is no threat of explosions, and I have a staff of hermaphrodites that will give you a complimentary handjob while you dig in your wallet for some cash.

  • Bryan C||

    There's gold in them thar' roads!

  • Almanian!||

    Don't make me go all USA! USA! USA! on your ass, PB...

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I think what happened was the Obama people had no idea what they were doing. They had a few platitudes and not much else.

    Good intentions.

    Good intentions by the metric fucking tonne.

  • Hyperion||

    If only everyone felt empathy, the world would become a paradise and everyone would get a pony. A free pony.

    But mean old Republicans won't let everyone feel empathy. If only there we no more Republicans.

  • Almanian!||

    I want a pony

  • Killazontherun||

    The affectation of good intentions defines who they are.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I hope you pick the kind of mine you can turn off to let the toll payers pass un-exploded.

    Well, duh. I'm not gonna get rich if I kill the goose.

    What do you take me for, a Democrat?

  • Dave Krueger||

    It directed the panel to emphasize in its review whether U.S. spying programs protect national security, advance foreign policy and are protected against the types of leaks that led to the national debate in the first place.

    I guess they are supposed to stay away from touchy issues like whether the programs are Constitutional. If they aren't, then none of the rest matters. Last time I checked, there was no clause in the Fourth Amendment allowing it to be waived to protect national (ie: government) security or advance foreign policy.

    This has been the government's straw man from the beginning. It doesn't matter if the surveillance has made it possible to thwart terrorist attacks if it's not Constitutional, so debating that point is utterly useless.

  • John||

    The problem is that if these policies really are necessary to stop terrorist attacks, most people are going to support them. The 4th Amendment says "reasonable". And if these programs are necessary to stop really big terrorist attacks, most people are going to think they are reasonable. You won't agree with that. But that doesn't change what the majority of the public will think.

    So I think the "it doesn't matter if they work" approach is a loser. The case has to be made, and I think can be made, that these programs don't work. They protect us or prevent terrorist attacks. Make that point and people will then care about the harm they cause.

  • db||

    The whole "reasonable" thing is bullshit. It doesn't mean "oh, yeah, I think I agree with that." In the context of the philosophy of self government the founders were trying to set up, it means a completely different thing that a whole bunch of people agreeing to stupid shit based on bad information. That's why it was a terrible thing to include in the Constitution, but really, could they have ever imagined that the language could have changed so much?

  • John||

    I take "reasonable" to put the burden on us to figure out what kind of government we want. The Constitution is not some holy document handed down from God. It is a framework. And if the people of the US decide to sell their freedom, they can do so under the Constitution.

    I hate the idea of relying on the Constitution to keep us free. We have to keep ourselves free. I think civil libertarians sell their arguments short by relying too much on the Constitution. "This is unconstitutional" while a nice argument is not always an irrefutable argument and doesn't reflect whether the "this" is a good or a bad idea. It can quickly become just an appeal to authority that serves to undermine the Constitution by letting opponents say the Constitution prevents us from doing good things.

    The heart of any debate about this has to be why these programs are a terrible idea and not worth the harm they will cause.

  • Rich||

    *** rolls eyes ***

    John, you know perfectly well the successes of these programs are *classified*. That in itself proves they work.

    Seriously, give truly independent observers "unfettered" access to *everything* and have them give a thumbs up/down. Perhaps terminally ill people who would be willing to be euthanized after making a public announcement.

  • Rich||

    The final consideration in the White House memo told the panel to examine "our need to maintain the public trust."

    Simply put into solitary confinement everyone having the clearance Edward Snowden had.

    Not sure that'll "maintain" the public trust; but it might show some intent.

  • Dave Krueger||

    Obama’s NSA ‘Independent’ Review Clearly a Public Relations Move

    Everything that government does involving the public is a Public Relations Move. In the eyes of government, aside from supplying the military with cannon fodder during times of war, the public serves only one purpose: the generation of wealth that they can harvest for the benefit of themselves and their corporate partners. Like all corrupt entities, the government is paranoid that the public will figure that out. For that reason, they will never give up one inch of their surveillance capabilities.

  • Loki||

    It directed the panel to emphasize in its review whether U.S. spying programs protect national security, advance foreign policy and are protected against the types of leaks that led to the national debate in the first place. The final consideration in the White House memo told the panel to examine "our need to maintain the public trust."

    Translation: "Figure out someway of making sure the peons don't go blabbing to the press anymore while simultaneously helping us not to look like a bunch of mendacioua shitheels."

    Talk about an impossible task.

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