President Obama’s proposed “high-level group of outside experts” enlisted to conduct a review of the country’s intelligence capabilities are anything but outside and “independent.” Each member has very close connections with the United States government.
One of the panelists, Michael Morell was recently the head of the CIA, from 2012 until this year. No more really needs to be said about Morell in light of that.
The other two with extensive ties to executive powers and the intelligence operations of the country are Richard Clarke and Cass Sunstein.
Clarke was a senior White House advisor to the last three US presidents, serving as a counter-terrorism advisor to George W. Bush during that stint. He was also a “former national coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter Terrorism for the United States.” Before that, he was in the State Department during the Reagan presidency. Clarke currently manages Good Harbor Security Risk Management, a private security company.
Noted as a “controversial appointment,” Sunstein has been credited with being the proponent of some very questionable government intelligence tactics. A former White House staffer and “intellectual inspiration” for President Obama, Sunstein wrote an academic paper that insisted upon the effectiveness of sending government agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt[ing] to undermine percolating conspiracy theories by raising doubts about their factual premises, causal logic, or implications for political action.”
The only promising pick is that of privacy expert and Georgia Tech law professor Peter Swire. During the Clinton administration, Swire was the Chief Counselor for Privacy in the US Office of Management and Budget. He is also a fellow at the Center for American Progress and the Center for Democracy and Technology, which allows the panel to have a somewhat noticeable lack of conflict of interest.
However, the appointments still seem to attract more skepticism than praise. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) policy analyst Mark Jaycox said “The picks show that the president’s commitment to having ‘independent’ and ‘outside experts’ review the spying programs is false. All the picks are thorough Washington insiders.”
With the obvious, intentioned selection of Washington insiders to review the US’s spying capabilities, staff attorney of the EFF, Mark Rumold, calls it accurately when he says “having executive branch insiders continually placed in charge of reviewing the executive branch, . . . is more of a fox guarding the henhouse situation.”
Josh is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.