President Barack Obama on Monday announced that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will head a review group designed to assess the nation's intelligence gathering and surveillance capabilities, raising questions about whether a board led by a top government official will be as independent as he promised.
Obama announced the creation of an "independent group" of "outside experts" to review privacy issues raised by the nation's surveillance programs during a Friday press conference. "We’re forming a high-level group of outside experts to review our entire intelligence and communications technologies," he said, adding that the group would "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."
A statement released by Clapper on Monday announcing the formation of the group does not discuss abuses, instead mentioning the risk of "unauthorized disclosure."
"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 said.
Clapper recently apologized for making an "erroneous" statement to Congress after saying in a congressional hearing that the National Security Agency does not collect data on Americans.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked him if the NSA collects "any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans."
He responded "No," but added, "There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not wittingly."
When that statement was later revealed to be false, he told NBC News that "I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful, manner."