Tuesday, December 17, 2013

President Obama's NSA Review Group Is Typical Administration Whitewash

Notice how the White House moved quickly to thwart the only substantive NSA changes the review group was making

(Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP)
Barack Obama waves to the crowds from the stands as he arrives at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in South Africa last week. In case you missed it, on Thursday night, the Wall Street Journal and New York Times published leaked details from the recommendations from the review group on intelligence and communications technologies, a panel President Obama set up in August to review the NSA's activities in response to the Edward Snowden leaks.

The stories described what they said were recommendations in the report as presented in draft form to White House advisors; the final report was due to the White House on Sunday. There were discrepancies in the reporting, which may have signaled the leaks were a public airing of disputes surrounding the review group (both articles noted the results were "still being finalized"). The biggest news item were reports about a recommendation that the director of the NSA (Dirnsa) and Cyber Command positions be split, with a civilian leading the former agency.

Before the final report was even delivered, the White House struck. On Friday, while insisting that the commission report was not yet final, national security council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden announced the White House had already decided the position would not be split. A dual-hatted general would continue to lead both.

By all appearances, the White House moved to pre-empt the results of its own review group to squelch any recommendation that the position be split. The Christian Science Monitor even reported that the final report now recommends that DIRNSA and CyberCom remain unified, suggesting either that the faction that supported that recommendation prevailed on the review, or the review changed its recommendations to accord with the president's decision, announced after receiving initial recommendations to split it.

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