Intel chief misled Congress on NSA spying. Now he’s leading program’s review


The high-ranking intelligence official who admitted to misleading Congress over the scope of the National Security Agency’s spying programs will be tasked with overseeing President Obama’s independent review of those very same programs.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper announced Monday he would be leading the Review Group to ensure that the U.S. “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.”

Having Clapper lead the Review Group may seem like assigning the alpha fox to check IDs at the door to the hen house. During a Senate hearing in March, Clapper told Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden that the NSA did not collect Americans’ communications data at all. After former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked a court order to the press requesting data for millions of Verizon customers, Clapper admitted to having been “cute” with his response to Wyden.

Clapper’s announcement also places the Review Group’s priorities in a curious order. When Obama described the concept for the review group during a press conference last Friday, he said a group of “outside experts” would “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.”

With Obama, public trust was the first priority of the Review Group. Clapper’s announcement placed it last.