America’s Intelligence Transparency Council to meet for the first time … behind closed doors

clapper-signing

A new council designed to bring greater openness and transparency to the US intelligence services will soon meet for the first time. Behind closed doors.

The Intelligence Transparency Council was formally established by director of national intelligence (DNI) James Clapper last week when he signed its charter [PDF]. It will remain in place for five years.

That charter outlines how the council will “advise and assist” Clapper in introducing new “transparency principles” as well as oversee a new “implementation plan” for those principles.

If there was any doubt about how seriously the council takes transparency, you need only read its charter: the word appears no less than 39 times.

Not only will it ensure transparency and the new transparency plan, it will also identify new transparency issues, set up new groups within the intelligence community to tackle transparency, and even “identify a ‘Transparency Team’… to facilitate internal coordination”.

We suspect the council’s first job, however, will be to work on a specific definition of the word “transparency.” Let’s hope it does better than Clapper’s continual redefinition of the word “collection” to the Senate Intelligence Committee. He denied flat out that the US government was collecting information on American citizens just months before Edward Snowden revealed the complete opposite was true.

Trust issues

That enormous loss in trust between the American people and the intelligence services that serve them was in large part responsible for the creation of the new council. The idea is that by being a little more open it might be possible to prevent the creation of another huge gulf between what the public feels is appropriate and legal, and what the closed intelligence community persuades itself is acceptable.

In a promising sign of that bold new approach, the transparency council will be meeting in secret. It also doesn’t have an online presence or website so there is nowhere to go to find out about its activities.

We don’t know who sits on the transparency council. Or when they meet. Or what their agenda is. Needless to say, minutes are probably out of the question. Recommendations?

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