Obama Names, Meets With Members Of New Surveillance Review Group

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By Alexei Alexis

Newly named members of the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology, created in response to public outrage over controversial National Security Agency surveillance programs, met with President Obama Aug. 27, according to the White House.

After the meeting, White House press secretary Jay Carney issued a statement naming the members of the review group:

• Richard Clarke, a key national security advisor in previous presidential administrations;

• Michael Morell, former acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency under Obama;

• Geoffrey Stone, the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service professor of law at the University of Chicago Law School;

• Cass Sunstein, former administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs under Obama; and

• Peter Swire, who served as President Clinton's chief counselor for privacy from 1999 to 2001 in the Office of Management and Budget.


“The Review Group will bring a range of experience and perspectives to bear to advise the President on how, in light of advancements in technology, the United States can employ its technical collection capabilities in a way that optimally protects our national security and advances our foreign policy while respecting our commitment to privacy and civil liberties, recognizing our need to maintain the public trust, and reducing the risk of unauthorized disclosure,” Carney said in the statement.

Group Will Brief Findings

The group is expected to brief its interim findings to the president through the director of national intelligence within 60 days of beginning its work.

In the wake of press reports, the Obama administration has confirmed the existence of controversial NSA surveillance programs. One effort involves the bulk collection of U.S. phone customer records (12 PVLR 1006, 6/10/13), while the other initiative, known as PRISM, targets the web communications of individuals located outside the United States, according to the administration (12 PVLR 1051, 6/17/13).

Obama unveiled a plan Aug. 9 that included steps such forming a high-level group of outside experts to conduct a review of surveillance technologies (12 PVLR 1438, 8/19/13).

Review Group Criticized

“The picks show that the president's commitment to having 'independent' and 'outside experts' review the spying programs is false,” Mark Jaycox, a policy analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told BNA Aug. 28.

“All the picks are thorough Washington insiders. Richard Clarke has advocated DHS be allowed to scan all internet traffic going in and out of the United States. Cass Sunstein, while a noted legal scholar on regulatory issues, has written a paper about government campaigns to infiltrate online groups and activists.”

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