Who Watches the Watchers

Story by Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service

The director of national intelligence announced plans to establish a review group to look at the government’s signals-intelligence collection and surveillance capabilities.

James R. Clapper acted at the direction of President Barack Obama, who discussed the initiative during a White House news conference in August. “We’re forming a high-level group of outside experts to review our entire intelligence and communications technologies,” he said.

New technologies give governments unprecedented capabilities to monitor communications, and there needs to be a discussion of those technologies, Obama said. He said the panel will “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.”

Clapper’s note today formalized the start of this initiative.

“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.

Once established, the group will brief its interim findings to President Obama within 60 days of its formation and provide a final report with recommendations no later than Dec. 15, 2013.

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