National Intelligence Director James Clapper announced in a memo Monday he was establishing a group to review the government’s controversial surveillance and intelligence-gathering programs.
President Barack Obama called for the move in a Friday press conference.
“We’re forming a high-level group of outside experts to review our entire intelligence and communications technologies. We need new thinking for a new era,” he said. “Technology has given governments — including our own — unprecedented capability to monitor communications.
During the press conference, Obama outlined several steps to shed more light on the government’s programs to collect telephone records and Internet activity. Since former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked classified information about the programs, Congress and the public have pushed for greater transparency — or the elimination altogether — of the practice.
“Given the history of abuse by governments, it’s right to ask questions about surveillance — particularly as technology is reshaping every aspect of our lives,” Obama said.
According to Clapper’s memo, the review panel will give its opinion on whether the U.S. is properly balancing national security concerns and privacy concerns in its use of modern technologies. The group will review how each technology is used, and how that use affects the country’s relationships with other countries.
It will brief the president on its interim findings within 60 days of its establishment and pass along its final report by Dec. 15.
Obama also called for three other oversight steps Friday: reforming the Patriot Act, which authorizes the collection of telephone records; changing the structure of the court that authorizes individual phone record searches; and releasing more surveillance program data.
“All these steps are designed to ensure that the American people can trust that our efforts are in line with our interests and our values,” he said. “And to others around the world, I want to make clear once again that America is not interested in spying on ordinary people.”