Privacy & Civil Liberties Board at the heart of Obama’s effort to address NSA surveillance scandal is itself a Washington enigma
The body charged by President Obama with protecting the civil liberties and privacy of the American people exists in shadows almost as dark as the intelligence agencies it is designed to oversee.
The Privacy & Civil Liberties Board (PCLOB) was due to meet Obama at the White House on Friday afternoon at 3pm in the situation room to discuss growing concerns over US surveillance of phone and internet records – or, at least, that’s what unnamed “senior administration officials” said would happen.
The meeting did not appear on the president’s official diary issued to journalists, nor has the PCLOB issued much public confirmation beyond saying “further questions were warranted”.
To be fair, that might be because the PCLOB does not have a website, nor an email address, nor indeed any independent full-time staff. Its day-to-day administration is currently run by a government official on secondment from the office of the Director of National Intelligence.
In fact, even the office address given out by the PCLOB in the few public letters that exist does not appear to be functioning. A security guard at the federal buildings on 2100 K Street in Washington said he had no record of the mystery body that claimed to occupy suite 500.
On Tuesday, Obama announced that the PCLOB would be at the heart of his efforts to address the growing scandal over the National Security Agency’s surveillance programmes.
“I’ll be meeting with them and what I want to do is to set up and structure a national conversation not only about these two programs but also about the general problem of these big data sets because this is not going to be restricted to government entities,” he told Charlie Rose in a TV interview.
Yet, the White House appears to be scrambling to set up infrastructure that can support such a conversation and has placed its trust in a body with a chequered history of independent scrutiny.
Set up as an agency within the Executive Office of the President in 2004, the PCLOB for many years had no members at all. After criticism, in the words of a congressional report, that it “appeared to be presidential appendage, devoid of the capability to exercise independent judgement and assessment or to provide impartial findings and recommendations”, it was reconstituted as …read more
Via: The Guardian