Tuesday, August 13, 2013

 

White House and Congress only want to quell public displeasure while retaining spy programs


A memo issued Monday by the White House said James Clapper, the United States director of national intelligence, is to form a review group tasked to determine if the US ‘employs its technical collection capabilities in a manner that optimally protects our national security and advances our foreign policy while appropriately accounting for other policy considerations, such as the risk of unauthorized disclosure and our need to maintain the public trust.’


by Larry Geller

There’s more than one message here, but the most important that I took away from this and other media coverage of our government’s reaction to Edward Snowden’s NSA surveillance and spying revelations is that neither Congress nor the White House plan to stop harvesting our data any time soon.

The Twittersphere was angry about the Clapper appointment. See, for example, this example tweet, posting a snip from a Huffington Post front page on the announcement.

Then Obama backed off—see the article from which the above pull-quote was taken: White House denies DNI Clapper will head ‘independent’ NSA review group (RT.com, 8/13/2013).

However, in a confusing turnabout, the White House said on Tuesday that Clapper is not heading the independent review.

A good summary of the controversy is in this DailyKos article:

Obama appoints James Clapper to oversee "independent" NSA review (8/12/2013). Don’t miss the comment at the bottom:

On Monday, the White House released a memo directing the establishment of a "Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies."

“The Review Group will assess whether, in light of advancements in communications technologies, the United States employs its technical collection capabilities in a manner that optimally protects our national security and advances our foreign policy while appropriately accounting for other policy considerations, such as the risk of unauthorized disclosure and our need to maintain the public trust. Within 60 days of its establishment, the Review Group will brief their interim findings to me through the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), and the Review Group will provide a final report and recommendations to me through the DNI no later than December 15, 2013. - Barack Obama”

The same day, the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, issued this news release:

“At the direction of the President, I am establishing the Director of National Intelligence Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies to examine our global signals-intelligence collection and surveillance capability.

The Review Group will assess whether, in light of advancements in communications technologies, the United States employs its technical collection capabilities in a manner that optimally protects our national security and advances our foreign policy while appropriately accounting for other policy considerations, such as the risk of unauthorized disclosure and our need to maintain the public trust.

The Review Group will brief its interim findings to the President within 60 days of its establishment, and provide a final report with recommendations no later than Dec. 15, 2013.

James R. Clapper
Director of National Intelligence”

Notice that neither memo says anything about assessing whether the programs  violate the civil liberties of Americans or go beyond Congressional authorization although both have been alleged by legal experts and members of Congress.

You can draw your own conclusion. Mine is that Congress and the White House merely want to contain reaction to Snowden’s revelations, and neither intends to stop the spy programs. Note that Clapper still walks free despite lying to Congress. So how upset is Congress? Despite the squeaks, not so much.

So don’t look for zillions of disk drives to be offered by NSA on eBay any time soon.



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