“I called for a thorough review of our surveillance operations before Mr. Snowden made these leaks,” President Obama claimed today in a press conference at the White House.
Oh really? Was this in a classified memo? Was it going to be a secret review whose findings would never be made public?
If this board now has an essential role in the review Obama has just proposed, there is no evidence whatsoever that he attached much significance to the board’s operations prior to the leaks. As Government Executive reported this week:
The little-known Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created in 2007 on a 9/11 Commission recommendation, was limping along for years with no appointees or staff leadership. All that changed with this summer’s revelations of domestic surveillance of Americans’ telephone activity by the National Security Agency.
The board — an independent agency that consists of four part-time members and a full-time chair who advise the president and Congress on the balance between security and privacy — this month will finally welcome its first executive director, attorney Sharon Bradford Franklin. That’s after it took more than two years for President Obama to nominate and for the Senate to approve the board members — Chairman David Medine was just confirmed in May.
Board members were not briefed on the NSA’s surveillance operations until June 19, two weeks after the first leaks had been published by The Guardian.
Obama now claims that the new review could have proceeded in a more orderly fashion in the absence of the media attention that has been generated, thanks to the leaks.
As far as this president is concerned, that government which governs best is the one whose operations we know least about and care even less about.
(The following clip from Obama’s news conference is preceded by a 30-second commercial.)