After a public backlash to government spying, President Barack Obama called for an independent group to review the vast surveillance programs that allow the collections of phone and email records.
Now, weeks before the group’s first report is due, some lawmakers, technology organizations and civil liberties groups are concerned that the panel’s members are too close to the Obama administration and its mission too vague to provide a thorough scrubbing of the National Security Agency technologies that have guided intelligence gathering since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies works in the office of the director of national intelligence; reports to its director, James Clapper, who’s been accused of lying to Congress about the programs; and has ties to his current and former bosses, Obama and former President Bill Clinton.
“There is ample evidence now that we need an independent investigation of the impact of the NSA’s spying program on Americans’ constitutional rights and civil liberties,” said Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., who has advocated for NSA changes. “A task force appointed by the president, reporting to the DNI, certainly won’t inspire confidence and may simply rubber-stamp a program that is dangerously infringing on Americans’ privacy rights.”