President Obama on Monday ordered the creation of an outside review board to analyze his administration’s controversial surveillance techniques, saying he wanted the group to report back to him with its findings by Dec. 15.

“The Review Group will assess whether, in light of advancements in communications technologies, the United States employs its technical collection capabilities in a manner that 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,” Obama said in a memo to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, released by the White House.

Obama also called on the group to give him a preliminary report within 60 days of its formation. Appointments to the panel have not been made.

Obama announced last week that he would work with Congress to improve openness surrounding the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and the Patriot Act provision that allows federal officials to seize Americans’ phone data. The new panel of outside experts is part of that initiative.

The president has been on the defensive about civil liberties ever since National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden disclosed extensive details about U.S. phone and Internet surveillance programs.

Taking heat from both his own base and across the aisle, Obama is hoping to convince the public that enough safeguards are in place to protect Americans’ privacy.

However, critics are dismissing Obama’s proposals as merely cosmetic changes. And Retired Gen. Michael Hayden, the former director of the NSA and CIA, said on Sunday that Obama wasn’t significantly altering how the federal government would seize Americans’ phone and Internet data.