Privacy Advisor

White House Names NSA Review Panel

August 23, 2013

By Jedidiah Bracy, CIPP/US, CIPP/E

In response to the slew of leaks stemming from Edward Snowden, President Barack Obama has reportedly named a panel of four experts to conduct a full review of U.S. surveillance programs, ABC News reports.

This “high-level group of outside experts” will include recent acting head of the CIA Michael Morell, and former White House officials Peter Swire, CIPP/US (author the IAPP’s Foundations of Information Privacy and Data Protection), Cass Sunstein and Richard Clarke. Two weeks ago, Obama said the panel will “consider how we can maintain the trust of the people (and) how we can make sure that there absolutely is not abuse.”

The Privacy Advisor contacted Swire for comment, but he said nothing has been officially announced yet.

According to Ars Technica, some critics are concerned the reported panel is not truly a group of “outside experts” since all have worked within the executive branch in the past. University of California Hastings College of the Law Prof. Robin Feldman said, “Choosing insiders has positives and negatives: On the one hand, choosing insiders makes it more likely that they can move the levers of power,” adding, “On the other hand, choosing insiders makes it more challenging for them to have the independence.”

George Washington University Law Prof. Orin Kerr noted, “perhaps that was necessary because everyone needed to have a security clearance, which presumably they all have or recently had.”

More on the NSA, From Transparency to Start-Ups to Op-Eds

Earlier this week, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence started a Tumblr blog focusing on the work of the intelligence communication, called IC On The Record. The blog attempts to be a “hub for further transparency” and includes official statements, declassified documents, interviews and other documents.

Meanwhile, reports on connections between the Pentagon and Silicon Valley continue. The New York Times explores several technology start-ups backed by former Department of Defense and intelligence agency operatives. With the rise in cyberattacks, demand for stronger security tools is on the rise. And the money is there. According to the report, in 2012, more than $1 billion in venture capital has made its way into security start-ups. One former intelligence analyst said of the demand for former intelligence officials, “They have unique insights because they’ve been on the front lines…Now they’ve got commercial desires. The lines are blurring.”

And concerns about the NSA surveillance programs continue. In an op-ed for Boing Boing, Josh Levy opines the programs are the “most serious attacks on free speech we’ve ever seen.”

Read more by Jedidiah Bracy:
Organization-Wide Privacy Training Implemented at Bloomberg
A Roundup of Obama's Surveillance Changes
Senate Committee Presses NSA; Agencies Willing to Re-evaluate Program
Committee Hears Testimony, Patriot Act Must Change