I've long been a fan of the BBC's political comedy series Yes, Minister and it's followup Yes, Prime Minister. Both attempt to follow a politician and his family through their struggles to accomplish... something, anything!... against the resistance of an entrenched civil service. The series doesn't hold back -- everyone on the show is shown to be by turns corrupt, venal, naive, wrong, overly idealistic, overly cynical, and just about everything else.
The AP states that the review panel is lodged in offices provided by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Even more, the DNI is running its media strategy, vetting requests through its own press office. Any whiff of independence that the group might have hoped to engender is now certainly gone...
So, in short, Clapper, the head of the DNI, exempted the group that he is currently housing, that is supposed to be vetting his work, from rules requiring their work to be public. Transparency! And, whatever they come up with will of course have to be approved for publishing.
One of the really funny moments is how the show handles what the British call quangos:
It describes an ostensibly non-governmental organisation performing governmental functions, often in receipt of funding or other support from government, while mainstream NGOs mostly get their donations or funds from the public and other organisations that support their cause. Numerous quangos were created from the 1980s onwards. Examples in the United Kingdom include those engaged in the regulation of various commercial and service sectors, such as the Water Services Regulation Authority.
An essential feature of a quango in the original definition was that it should not be a formal part of the state structure. The term was then extended to apply to a range of organisations, such as executive agencies providing (from 1988) health, education and other services. Particularly in the UK, this occurred in a polemical atmosphere in which it was alleged that proliferation of such bodies was undesirable and should be reversed (see below). This spawned the related acronym qualgo, a 'quasi-autonomous local government organisation'.
Obama's surveillance review board was supposed to be a temporary quango, able to examine evidence and draw independent conclusions about government activities. As a government official, you form a review board when you want to deflect attention from a scandal that is damaging you. Forming the review board takes time, and the results can be carefully managed by who is appointed to the board and what information they are allowed to access. After the decision to create a board is announced, you can refer all questions to the ongoing review, which takes just long enough for the news cycle to complete and then announces its results quietly and without fanfare.
That's pretty much exactly what Obama was trying to do with this board. But he's taken it a step further, and lost even the veneer of independence. Not only has he packed the review board with people certain to whitewash the results, the board itself is being funneled through the facilities of the DNI. Anyone expecting independent results is deluding themselves.
This entry was published Wed Sep 25 19:27:13 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger
and last updated 2013-09-25 19:27:13.0.