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Spy chief to run ‘independent’ review of spying program

By   /   August 13, 2013  /   News  /   16 Comments

AP file photo

LIE TO CONGRESS, GET MORE RESPONSIBILITIES: In March, James Clapper denied the existence of NSA spying programs. Now, he will review those same programs to see if they violate the national trust. Huh?


By Eric Boehm | Watchdog.org

Less than three days after President Barack Obama announced an “independent review” of the nation’s surveillance technologies, the White House has appointed James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, to run the panel.

Let that sink in.

In an announcement posted online Monday afternoon, Clapper’s office said he would run the president’s 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,” Clapper wrote.

He’s a funny guy to be talking about the need to maintain the public trust.

In March, Clapper was at a congressional hearing where he was asked point blank by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., about whether the National Security Agency collects “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.

No, sir,” said Clapper.

That statement now appears to be untrue.

Documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed the NSA to be engaged in multiple efforts to collect cell phone and Internet data from Americans and foreigners. The electronic surveillance dragnet extends to all communications traveling on fiber-optic lines into and out of the United States, all cell phone data like call lengths and locations and the ability to track individuals through their Internet browsing with the cooperation of major corporations like Google and Facebook.

But yes, that very same James Clapper will now lead the investigative effort to determine whether the American government’s “technical collection capabilities” are adequately balancing national security and the national trust.

Obama announced the creation of the “independent” review on Friday.

“I am tasking this independent group to step back and review our capabilities — particularly our surveillance technologies,” Obama said. “And they’ll consider how we can maintain the trust of the people, how we can make sure that there absolutely is no abuse in terms of how these surveillance technologies are used, ask how surveillance impacts our foreign policy — particularly in an age when more and more information is becoming public.”

The entire effort was spurred by senators like Wyden, who was one of 26 senators to send a letter last month to Clapper  – of all people – calling for the review.

As Watchdog.org’s Shelby Sebens reported at the time, the senators asked for information regarding how the Patriot Act was interpreted to allow for the bulk collection of data on the communications of ordinary Americans with no connection to wrong-doing, according to a news release from Wyden.

The senators were seeking examples of how the program is effective, if it is.

In the letter the senators wrote that misleading statements from intelligence officials “prevented our constituents from evaluating the decisions that their government was making, and will unfortunately undermine trust in government more broadly.

One guess who they were talking about there.

As for the new review group, it will meet for 60 days before relaying its findings to Clapper, who has been instructed to pass them on to the White House.  According to the White House memo announcing the review group – which, it is worth noting, never once uses the word “independent” – the final report from the group is due on Dec. 15.

In a world that makes more sense, James Clapper could be on trial for lying to Congress.

In this world, he will have even more authority over the future of the United States’ domestic spying regime.

Boehm is a reporter for Watchdog.org and can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @EricBoehm87.


Eric Boehm was a national regulatory reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • JCDavis

    Clapper investigating NSA is like the Nazis investigating the Reichstag Fire. The end result of Clapper’s investigation will only be the institutionalization of more secrecy and more spying, and Congress will be blackmailed into giving them even more power over us. We are already deep into “the abyss from which there is no return.”

  • OldmanRick

    An investigation conducted by Clapper and his trolls will result in nothing being discovered and less being done to resolve the current spying on citizens. Clapper is going to cover for those responsible; and if he needs help, little boy Holder will leap to his side to protect him from claims of ineptitude, incompetence, and complicity. Reid, Pelosi, and of course Valerie Jarrett will be there to protect the brat from any negative fallout.

  • factsobill

    Lets review! James Clapper, the Liar in Chief at the NSA, is going to head an “independent” review of NSA’s actions? This only covers for more traitorous actions planned in the future? Obama, a name of ignomy in the annals of Shame!

  • amysname

    The fox guarding the hen house! How ridiculous! This would be funny if it wasn’t so scary for the American people. Why is this man still in a job? He LIED to Congress, doesn’t that mean anything anymore?

  • rlowen

    Only Obama would have the chutzpah to put Clapper in charge and call it independent. Clapper is a tool that says and does what he is told. How this man ever attained the level that he is at is a never ending source of amazement. See my blog at http://cranky-conservative.blogspot.com

  • This administration is beyond pathetic.

  • milkawhat2

    .Don’t you see?? He lied to Congress…. and then got caught!!! What better person than him would you put in charge to assess intelligence gathering of US citizens….and not get caught. You’ll see, everything will be fine…just move along.

  • deadendfuture

    Welcome to the Disunited Socialist States of Amerika. Barely more than a decade ago, the thought of the NSA spying on ordinary citizens would send shock waves through the populace. I never in my own lifetime would have ever thought that I’d have to be wary of what I said to someone in public or over the phone because my government would come after me like a thief in the night, imprison me without a trial, and suspend my constitutional rights. Yet, here we are.

  • lilolady

    On what planet is so much bad behavior rewarded with so many prestigious jobs promotions and much better pay? Please try to remember the names, there are many and more to come from the looks of things, it will be hard to do but really important.

  • Guest

    Only a LIBERAL DEMOCRAT, would even THINK such a CRIMINAL THING!!!

  • Frank Castle

    What Obama keeps doing with his “we investigate ourselves” deals, would be like ADOLPH HITLER, asking HIMMLER to investigate “Rumors of abuses of Jews”……… and it is JUST as CRIMINAL!

  • stlouisix

    Obama continues to flaunt his unbounded abuse of power with another slap
    in the face to The Constitution while the worthless GOPE leadership
    does NOTHING to rein him in.

  • hopeychangey

    With the senate democraps in charge of not passing bills, originated In the republican house, to stop this Clown in Office, all hope is lost. If you really care, vote out the democraps in the senate and keep the house republican.. If nothing else, it will keep obamy for completely ruining the country.

  • hawkhd

    Maintain the public trust? How about following the law and the Constitution? Not to mention that Jim Clapper is personally responsible for screwing up the entire national intelligence community.

  • feddup45

    the candor we now se from the President is roughly what we saw during the campaign, although the facts are now slightly more transparent. We have met the enemy and they is us. The electorate needs to mature. The prognosis is horrible.

  • AlaskaLaw

    It is “no big deal”(sarcasm) in the main because of the perception by the left that any complaints against this administration must be based on racism and because of a paternalistic belief by some on the right that those of us out here in fly-over country simply must be protected even if it means doing away with the same freedoms they are arguing they are protecting. Just more of the “We had to destroy the village in order to protect it” mentality we have been living with since Vietnam. I see little hope for those of us who do not live on the beltway.