Independent review-Obama style

Despite the enormity of Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations, some US senators who are in the know but are forbidden to speak openly are hinting that what has already been revealed is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’.

As a result of the uproar the revelations have caused about the illegal spying and invasions of privacy by the US government, president Obama promised an extensive review of the program by an independent group. But it should come as no surprise that the panel reportedly consists almost entirely of insiders with close ties to the national security state with just one person who might just marginally fit the idea of ‘independent’. The net result is not much better than what cartoonist Tom Tomorrow predicted.

The review of US surveillance programs which Barack Obama promised would be conducted by an “independent” and “outside” panel of experts looks set to consist of four Washington insiders with close ties to the security establishment.

The president announced the creation of the group of experts two weeks ago, in an attempt to stem the rising tide of anger over National Security Agency surveillance techniques disclosed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Obama trumpeted what he said would be a “high-level group of outside experts” tasked with assessing all of the government’s “intelligence and communication technologies”.

However a report by ABC News, which has not been denied by the administration, said the panel would consist of Michael Morell, a recent acting head of the CIA, and three former White House advisers.

The list of apparent panel members prompted criticism among privacy and civil liberty advocates, who said the review would lack credibility and was unlikely to end the controversy over US surveillance capabilities.

It looks like Obama cannot even be bothered to try and mask his contempt for us. But since this list was not officially confirmed, maybe he will include at least one person with some credibility among privacy advocates. But I wouldn’t bet on it.


  1. invivoMark says

    Come on, guys, impartial independent review is only bad if you have something to hide!

  2. Chiroptera says

    …maybe he will include at least one person with some credibility among privacy advocates.

    Who probably won’t be allowed to say anything in public.

  3. says

    …maybe he will include at least one person with some credibility among privacy advocates.

    Someone who’s looking for a job working at Booz-Allen.

  4. alkaloid says

    I wanted to commend you for continuing to deservedly criticize the Obama administration for what it has done and continues to do. It seems like a lot of liberal political discourse has descended to the level of “Republicans! Scary!”-and while I can definitely agree with that, it doesn’t really say all that much about what is immediately and visibly wrong either.

  5. Mano Singham says

    I was wondering about that too. The fundamental role of a Congressperson is to be a truth teller without fear of repercussions. So the only thing holding them back must be fear of vilification and losing the next election.

  6. Aliasalpha says

    The worst part being that the hypothetical whistleblowing senator would be the hero of the people.

    I’d lay odds that its not so much the fear of losing elections, its the fear of their entire history being publically used as a cudgel to beat them to death

  7. IX-103 says

    But that immunity has an exception for treason. You can bet that if those Congressmen gave a full disclosure that they would pull out all of the stops to make that stick.

  8. machintelligence says

    One of the reasons J. Edgar Hoover lasted so long as head of the FBI was that he had all the dirt on all of the politicians.

  9. nathanaelnerode says

    No, it does not. The “speech or debate” clause is ABSOLUTE. But it’s immunity from punishment by *anyone except Congress*:

    There are two clauses protecting members of Congress. I don’t know the formal name of this one, which is the “right to go to Congress” clause:
    ” …shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony, and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their attendance at the Session of their Respective Houses, and in going to and from the same; ”

    This is the “speech or debate clause”:
    “…and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.”

    In short, the Senate can arrest a Senator for breaking the law by revealing classified information. NOBODY else can. If a Senator commits treason on the floor of the Senate, it’s up to the other Senators to decide whether to arrest him. If the other Senators decide it’s OK, then it’s OK.

    This shows what’s really going on. The Senators who know that there are crimes concealed in the “Classified Documents” — *they’re not sure they have 51 Senators on their side*. If you make the revelation on the floor of the Senate, and 51 Senators decide they want to punish you, you’re screwed.

    When Mike Gravel read the entirety of the top-secret Pentagon Papers on the floor of the US House, nobody except the US House was authorized to punish him in any way, thanks to the “Speech Or Debate Clause”. The US House decided he’d done a good thing.

    But if they US House had had a majority which wanted to harm him, the US House could have harmed him.

  10. nathanaelnerode says

    As noted below, the “Speech Or Debate Clause” protects a Senator from everyone *except* the Senate itself. The Senate itself can punish a Senator for revealing classified information, although the President and the Courts cannot legally do anything. So they could simply be afraid that they don’t have 51 votes to support them if they do reveal it.

    Or they could be afraid that the NSA/CIA/et al will have them murdered. Given the lawlessness of those agencies, it would be a reasonable fear.

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