On July 1, the Associated Press breathlessly reported that an “independent civil liberties board” gave NSA spying the constitutional seal of approval and declared the spy agency employs “reasonable” safeguards designed to protect the rights of Americans.

Funny what the AP considers “independent.”

President Barack Obama appointed the members of this civil liberties board. It was made up of a Democratic federal judge, two “privacy experts” and two former Republican Justice Department officials.

So, the real headline should read, “Government Board Appointed by Government Approves Government Spying.”

Shocking, I know.

According to the AP story, the board “found that the NSA monitoring was legal and reasonable and that the NSA and other agencies take steps to prevent misuse of Americans’ data. Those steps include ‘minimization,’ that redacts the names of Americans from intelligence reports unless they are relevant.”

‘Overall, the board finds that the protections contained in the Section 702 minimization procedures are reasonably designed and implemented to ward against the exploitation of information acquired under the program for illegitimate purposes,’ said the report, which is to be voted on at a public meeting Wednesday in Washington. ‘The board has seen no trace of any such illegitimate activity associated with the program, or any attempt to intentionally circumvent legal limits.’

Perhaps the board members should pick up a copy of the Washington Post.

Just a few days after the government panel released its findings, the Post published an in-depth article revealing that the NSA spies mostly on regular people. And the report shows that the government not only downplays the extent of its spying, it out-and-out lies about it.

Shocking, I know.

The Washington Post reported that as many as nine out of 10 Internet users caught up in the spy dragnet were not the intended targets of surveillance and about half were Americans. The Post report did reveal nearly 65,000 “minimized” records belonging to Americans, but found some 900 that were not minimized. It also revealed a very loose standard for determining if a target was American or not, indicating that the agency likely spies on many Americans it has declared foreigners.

The Obama board did acknowledge the spy programs “potentially allow a great deal of private information about U.S. persons to be acquired by the government.”

According to the Snowden documents, there’s no “potentially” to it. It does.

President Obama’s panel was nothing more than another government dog and pony show, a classic fox guarding the hen house scenario. Nobody should put stock in the findings of a board made up of members of the political class. It was pretty much a forgone conclusion that the government board would give its seal of approval to unconstitutional, illegal and immoral NSA spying.

It did.

Shocking, I know.

Mike Maharrey

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