Right Before Snowden Leaks, President Obama Fired Nearly All Members On Key Intelligence Advisory Board

from the this-is-where-we-were-headed-all-along? dept

Remember last week’s press conference, where President Obama insisted that he had already kicked off the process of a major review of the way we do intelligence and surveillance in this country — and about how he was going to set up an “outside” review group to look all this over? The same review group that will be set up by and report to James Clapper (but, the White House assures us, not run by him)?

Right, so a few people pointed out that President Obama already has an independent group that’s supposed to do that thing: called the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB). There’s just one tiny, tiny problem in all of this. It now appears that, back in May, just before all the Snowden stuff started coming out, it appears that the administration basically kicked nearly everyone off of the PIAB board. It went from 14 members down to just four. And those members were basically asked to leave:

“They kicked me off,” said former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.). “I was on it a long time under Bush and under Obama. They wanted to make some changes.”

“I don’t know anything about whether they’ve brought in new members. They thanked me and that’s about all I know,” added Hamilton, widely known for his service as vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission.

[….] Philip Zelikow, who served as executive director of the 9/11 Commission and later as a top aide to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, was also asked recently to step off the PIAB.

“I’ve resigned from the Board, one of ten of the fourteen earlier members who have done so,” Zelikow said via email. “Four of the earlier members have remained, pending a reconstitution of the Board at some point for the balance of the President’s second term. The White House website displays the current situation, pending that.”

Hamilton’s ouster is particularly interesting, given that just a month ago, he wrote an oped piece about how the NSA’s surveillance efforts have gone too far. Seems like he’d be handy to have on this committee reviewing the NSA surveillance, no? So, forgive us for, once again, finding it difficult (or laughable) to believe President Obama’s claims that he had a serious revamp of the NSA’s surveillance activity in his priorities before the Snowden leaks happened. It seems clear that things were going in the other direction: ramping up the spying, while cutting back on the oversight and review.

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Comments on “Right Before Snowden Leaks, President Obama Fired Nearly All Members On Key Intelligence Advisory Board”

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another Canadian Observer (profile) says:

Re: Impeachment

I’ve been following this story for months and I totally agree that our US neighbours should start thinking about not only impeachment but also recalling about 50@ of all senators and congressmen. Also, get rid of Keith Alenxanderand the other general involved with the NSA, there appears to be no bigger liar than him, may be except Obama.

AmericanCitizen says:

Re: Impeachment

Well Canadian Observer, the thing is impeachment is the process of charging and convicting the president with a crime resulting in the removal of the president from office. Congress puts the president on trial so to speak. Impeachment is not a democratic process of removing an unpopular politician, if that is what impeachment was it almost certainly would have happened to Bush. If there is evidence that the president committed a crime there would be a basis for impeachment. Unless info is revealed that would directly incriminate the president it seems that he has plausible deniability.

JWW (profile) says:


Lost in this issue of NSA surveillance, is the fact that before the story broke President Obama gave a speech at Ohio State admonishing his political opponents and citizens at large for their lack of trust that the government is doing what’s best for us.

IMHO, he really really really wants us to believe that the government is good. Its just to bad he has to hide all these not so nice things about it from us.

But we should trust it anyway, right? right?

Julian Davis (profile) says:

Which just makes it more obvious that Obama was lying when he said he was already planning on launching a transparency campaign even before Snowden’s revelations. He wanted this stuff to be buried even deeper. Without Snowden they would have moved to quietly make it even harder for even members of the government to have any oversight.

This administration, which campaigned on transparency, is the most opaque we’ve had in a long time. They hate whistle blowers and anyone who goes against their surveillance state.

Even if it’s true that this is the cost of being safer, I don’t WANT to pay that cost. I’d rather take the risk of being unsafe and have my privacy. The tiny threat of terrorism isn’t worth the potential abuse these programs constitute. They’re already being abused by other government agencies like the IRS and DEA.

I’m not afraid of terrorists, stop using that as an excuse to make me “safer” by making me less free.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re:

“Without Snowden they would have moved to quietly make it even harder for even members of the government to have any oversight.”

By extension they would’ve continued to obfuscate their actions from the public. Had it not been for Snowden, most anything said about government surveillance would’ve fallen in the realm of “crazy, tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy theory” speculation.

Truth is stranger than fiction …and more dangerous.

Anonymous Coward says:

You're missing the bigger picture

The policy of logging is the NSA’s policy, not law, not judicial this or that, an NSA policy.
It’s General Alexander who ultimately decides what activity is logged…. and what activity is not logged.

So you’re looking at the reports into the logs and missing the simple fact, that the most heinous violations won’t be in that log file. They won’t even have been logged at all.

You sack 90% of your sysadmins not to protect the Snowden dataset, you sack them to stop them spying on non-logged queries from senior NSA.

Anonymous Coward says:

Since it was already minimized by the community I haven’t bothered to read ootb’s latest comment. Because it is already report voted enough, one has to assume it’s the usual mantra. When it isn’t it gets missed simply because of ootb’s typical fare. He’s got no one to blame but himself.

This constant trickle of new data coming out every day now that it is public knowledge on all this spying has shown one thing. This administration is up to it’s eyeballs in hiding what is really going on and with good reason.

The prediction that Senator Wyden made in 2011 of ?When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry.? has come home to roost in spades.

The hope that all this would blow over isn’t happening and more and more people across this nation are reading what is going on and seeing how it is dealt with. That drives home the realization that smoke, mirrors, and lies aren’t going to cut it. This is what happens when a real scandal breaks.

Such is what we have on our hands today. I am still looking to congress to do their figgin’ jobs!

any moose cow word says:

President Obama’s claims that he had a serious revamp of the NSA’s surveillance activity in his priorities before the Snowden leaks happened. It seems clear that things were going in the other direction: ramping up the spying, while cutting back on the oversight and review.

No, that is exactly the sort of “revamp” Obama had in mind.

If this mess drags out to the next presidential campaign, I predict a knee-jerk swing back to a republican insider–who will quietly run things basically as they are now–rather than someone who will actually change ANYTHING. People don’t learn, party politics will keep herding this country towards yet another cliff.

watcher says:

Strange shifts of players.........

Everyone agrees that all the spying and surveillance is because of 911…. That agreement though has always had two poles of shunt, the one which contends that we must spy on all the Untermenschen so they never repeat 911. The other pole of that consensus, believes more or less that all the spying and surveillance is to protect the true provenance of
the 911 putsch from us the victims.

When the lead architects [Zelokow/Hamilton of the 911 commission cover-up/whitewash suddenly become personas non-gratus in the apparatus of information repression, it should gives us careful observers pause to reality check our assumptions…… and to speculate what NEW leaks and revelations our vast security state will; soon endure…

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