On Friday, President Obama announced four measures that he would take to inject more oversight and transparency into the NSA after Edward Snowden leaked details of the agency's spy programs in early June. One of those measures was to create an independent oversight panel that would look into the NSA.
The Hill reports that the president has now formally announced the creation of the oversight panel. He believes that "it is important to take stock of how these technological advances alter the environment in which we conduct our intelligence mission." The president is undoubtedly referring to programs like PRISM and XKeyscore that allow the NSA to tap directly into the Internet and service providers to collect data pertaining to terroristic threats.
Of course, the revelation of these programs have caused some to fear that the NSA is collecting data not just on foreign threats, but all Americans. The president insists that the NSA does not spy on American citizens, but reports from leaks, and intelligence community sources, have called that claim into question. As such, the independent White House oversight panel will investigate if the NSA's ability to collect phone calls or Internet data has ever been abused.
So, when will we hear from this oversight panel? The initial findings will be presented to National Intelligence Director James Clapper by November, and then they will be given to the president by the end of the year. At that time, one might expect the president to reveal the results of the investigation, but that's not likely. Instead, he's likely to say the report came back all clear without offering any specifics, and that we shouldn't worry.
That's pretty much what the president said on Friday when he revealed his four step process to inject more transparency into the NSA without scaling back any of the programs. After all, the NSA analysts who conduct surveillance with little to no oversight are the real patriots here, not the man whose efforts are the only reason we're having this conservation in the first place.