When President Obama announced a series of intelligence reforms last Friday he called for the creation of an independent advisory group made up of "outside experts" who will review controversial surveillance programs. But based on a memorandum issued today by the White House, it's not clear how independent the effort will be. The president has directed the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, to establish the "review group" that will be responsible for issuing a report about how surveillance programs "impact our security, our privacy, and our foreign policy." The review group is intended in part, as the president said last week, to "maintain the trust of the people" — so why did the president put a man at the center of the spying controversy in charge?
While Clapper may be technically well-suited to direct a review group given the intelligence community's unique need for secrecy, it may be difficult to sell the process to the American people with current skepticism about his accountability. Earlier this month, lawmakers concerned with the government's broad surveillance efforts said that Clapper should resign for lying to Congress. "[Clapper] was here in March and unambiguously lied to Congress," Rep. Thomas Massie (R, KY) told Democracy Now. "And I believe he was under oath. And it really sets a bad precedent for the whole organization to let him keep his post." Several other lawmakers including Rep. Justin Amash (R, MI), who led a charge to curb the NSA's telephone surveillance program, echoed the call for Clapper's resignation.