DNI Clapper won’t control spying review, White House says

Olivier Knox
Chief Washington Correspondent
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W. Mark Felt, left, answers questions for reporters outside District Court in Washington, Monday, Dec. 15, 1980. Felt and Edward S. Miller, right, were fined a total of $8,500 in fines for approving illegal break-ins during a search for radicals. (AP Photo/Schwarz)

Whistle Blowers

This story was updated at 7 p.m. to correct an error.

The White House said on Tuesday that Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper won't choose members of a special committee tasked with reviewing high-tech U.S. spying programs and ferreting out abuses. Clapper also won't run the study, officials said.

“The panel members are being selected by the White House, in consultation with the Intelligence Community,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement emailed to Yahoo News.

“The Review Group will be made up of independent outside experts. The DNI’s role is one of facilitation, and the Group is not under the direction of or led by the DNI,” Hayden said. “The members require security clearances and access to classified information so they need to be administratively connected to the government, and the DNI’s office is the right place to provide that. The review process and findings will be the Group’s.”

President Barack Obama and Clapper each issued separate memos on Monday saying that the DNI would set up the group. But neither explicitly said who would choose its members. The top spy even called it “the Director of National Intelligence Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies."

That led to something of a backlash, as critics of the national security state pointed to Clapper’s testimony to Congress in March that the National Security Agency does not collect any kind of data on millions of Americans. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks have buried that assertion, and Clapper later said he was groping for the “least untruthful” description of the agency’s programs.

Hayden said the names of the group members would be announced soon.

Obama had announced plans to create the special review group on Friday.

“We’re forming a high-level group of outside experts to review our entire intelligence and communications technologies,” the president said at a press conference.

“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."