Here's how the president's Monday memo described Clapper's role:
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I am directing you to establish a Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies ... Within 60 days of its establishment, the Review Group will brief their interim findings to me through the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), and the Review Group will provide a final report and recommendations to me through the DNI no later than December 15, 2013.
Our original story follows.
On Friday, President Obama promised to appoint an "independent group" of "outside experts" to review the government's surveillance programs.
And there are other signs that the group won't turn out quite the way the president described it on Friday. Friday's speech talked about the need for input from outside experts with independent points of view. The president made no mention of the need for outsiders or independent viewpoints in his memo to Clapper.
The stated mission of the group has also shifted. On Friday, Obama said the group would examine "how we can maintain the trust of the people, how we can make sure that there absolutely is no abuse." But today's memo makes no mention of preventing abuses. Instead, it will examine whether U.S. surveillance activity "optimally protects our national security and advances our foreign policy while appropriately accounting for other policy considerations, such as the risk of unauthorized disclosure and our need to maintain the public trust."
For students of history, this will be a familiar pattern. In 1975, President Gerald Ford created a commission headed by Vice President Nelson Rockefeller to examine allegations of abuses by American intelligence agencies. But the commission's close ties to the executive branch prevented it from doing a thorough and vigorous investigation of the intelligence agencies' activities.
Instead, truly vigorous oversight came from independent committees created by Congress: a Senate committee headed by Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) and a House committee headed by Rep. Otis Pike (D-N.Y.). The same point is likely to hold today: genuinely independent oversight will come only from Congress, not a commission hand-picked by the nation's top intelligence official.