President Obama is preparing to name four former senior American officials — including three who worked in his administration — to the review board he announced earlier this month to examine U.S. surveillance policies.
The board members will include former CIA deputy director Michael Morell, onetime economic policy adviser Peter Swire, Obama’s former “regulatory czar” Cass Sunstein, and Richard A. Clarke, a National Security Council staff member in previous Republican and Democratic administrations, according to a U.S. official familiar with the selections.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to confirm the choices before the White House’s announcement.
Obama announced the creation of the review panel at an Aug. 9 news conference after weeks of controversy over the scope and legality of the National Security Agency’s phone data collection and Internet monitoring programs.
He said the panel would comprise “a high-level group of outside experts to review our entire intelligence and communications technologies” and provide a report no later than Dec. 15 assessing the right way to balance national security imperatives and privacy protections.
Some privacy groups expressed disappointment with the selections — which were first reported by ABC News — saying that the board would benefit from the inclusion of representatives who have worked outside the government.
“We continue to learn how each of the oversight mechanisms that the administration has pointed to have continuously failed,” said Amie Stepanovich, director of the domestic surveillance project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center. A “worthwhile review requires an independent team of evaluators.”
Morell retired in June after a 33-year career at the CIA, during which he worked closely with and gained the respect of Obama, especially during the planning and execution of the 2011 U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Morell served twice as the agency’s acting director and was believed to be Obama’s second choice to run the agency this term. Obama eventually selected John O. Brennan, his longtime counterterrorism adviser.
Morell was also involved in drafting the administration’s “talking points” about the Benghazi attacks that critics say attempted initially to obscure al-Qaeda involvement in the September 2012 killing of four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
Sunstein and Swire are both former Obama administration officials.
Sunstein left his position as head of the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs last year to return to Harvard Law School, where he is a professor.
He has written extensively about the role of regulation in a democratic society, and his work has influenced Obama since the president’s own days at Harvard Law. Sunstein’s wife, Samantha Power, was recently confirmed as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Clarke is a former White House counterterrorism and cybersecurity adviser.
He worked for the State Department during the Reagan administration and served on the National Security Council during the presidencies of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, whose administration he criticized harshly for allegedly ignoring intelligence pointing to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The White House declined to comment Thursday about the makeup of the panel, which is due to be announced soon.
Greg Miller contributed to this report.