Independent Privacy Board Issues Surveillance Report

BY Heather Greenfield
July 2, 2014

Washington – An independent federal privacy watchdog group has issued its latest surveillance report saying that NSA’s surveillance targeting those outside the U.S. appears to be legal, although there was some disagreement about far reforms should go. The members of the president’s independent Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board still urged better safeguards.

Back in January the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board issued a much more critical report on a different aspect of NSA surveillance saying that the government’s program to collect bulk metadata is illegal and should end.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association has advocated for ending bulk metadata collection and better checks and balances on surveillance. The following can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:

“Although we hoped that the PCLOB would go farther in its 702 reform recommendations, we appreciate its thorough review of the NSA’s implementation of the FISA Amendments Act.  Although there was internal debate within the Board on how far reform recommendations should go, the report provides value in outlining how the NSA is using its surveillance authority.  Going forward, this material will provide useable fodder for policymakers and privacy experts to debate and hopefully serve as an impetus for much needed reforms.  In the future it will also be important to factor in broad strategic concerns when making policy in this area, such as trust, Internet freedom, and soft diplomatic and economic national priorities—issues not clearly within the scope of the PCLOB.

“After both comprehensive reports, a few things are clear.  Both reports call for greater transparency, clarity and oversight of the NSA’s surveillance practices.  We have learned that clear surveillance abuses have been identified and must be reformed, and that certain programs – such as the NSA’s surveillance conducted under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act – have been of negligible value to the intelligence community.  Even as more complicated and nuanced aspects of surveillance reform are debated, there is clear action that should be taken now.

“As a down payment on the U.S. government’s resolve to reform the controversial and misguided surveillance practices, we hope that the Senate will resist calls to water down the USA Freedom Act and bring the measure to a vote.  Strong reform legislation is needed, and needed soon, to restore trust in the American government.”

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