Geof Stone Talks with Daily Beast about President's Review Group on Domestic Surveillance
On Aug. 27, President Obama met in the White House Situation Room with the high-level panel he’d picked to identify ways to reform the government’s domestic spying policies. All summer, his administration had been engulfed in controversy over revelations by Edward J. Snowden of the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices. Now Obama was trying to regain his footing.
Establishing a blue-ribbon commission in the midst of scandal is a time-honored Washington tradition. It’s a way for a president to try to stanch the bleeding or to say, “Hey, at least I’m doing something!” The move is usually met with cynicism. And indeed, Obama’s critics accused him of filling his panel with establishment cronies who were unlikely to rock any boats.
On the surface, there may be have been reason to be suspicious. Obama had worked closely with four of the five members and two had served in his administration. There was Michael Morrell, the former deputy director of the CIA, who has been a near-constant presence at Obama’s national security meetings. Richard Clarke had advised Obama on counterterrorism issues during the 2008 campaign and was close to National Security Adviser Susan Rice. Two other members, Geoffrey Stone and Cass Sunstein, hailed from the University of Chicago Law School where they had known Obama when he taught constitutional law there in the 90s. (Sunstein later served as a senior official in the Office of Management and Budget under Obama.)