Privacy advisory board repudiates NSA surveillance program
“A divided, high-level advisory board has repudiated a controversial surveillance program.
In a much-anticipated, 238-page report, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board concluded "there is no adequate legal basis" to support operation of the National Security Agency program that collects bulk telephone records. The program operates under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. The Board has been a backstage voice in the nationwide debate over the nation’s intelligence programs. It became fully functional in the weeks before former defense contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks first revealed the NSA programs’ existence.
The board formally recommended that the Obama administration end the bulk collection program, saying that it "raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties...and has shown only limited value."
"While the board believes this program has been operated in good faith to vigorously pursue the government's anti-terrorism mission," the majority report states, "the board concludes that Section 215 does not provide an adequate legal basis to support the program."
Tellingly, the board's majority also called into question whether the program has even done any good.
"We conclude that the Section 215 program has shown minimal value in safeguarding the nation from terrorism," the majority stated, adding that "we have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation."”
Watchdog Panel: NSA Phone Spying Is Illegal — Stop It
“A once-neglected and overlooked executive branch oversight board declared today that the NSA’s bulk telephone metadata snooping is illegal, does little to combat terrorism, and should be ended.
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board’s 3-2 conclusion that the program “implicates constitutional concerns” is not binding on the government and comes a week after President Barack Obama announced major changes to the snooping program based on recommendations from a different review board.
The panel’s investigation, proposed last year by Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), examined one of the largest known privacy breaches in the nation’s history disclosed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in June. Despite contrary assertions from intelligence officials, the panel found that the spying did little, if anything, to combat terrorism.
“Based on information provided to the Board, we have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the telephone records program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation,” the report found. “Moreover, we are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.”
Regarding Americans’ privacy, the report found:
“When the government collects all of a person’s telephone records, storing them for five years in a government database that is subjected to high-speed digital searching and analysis, the privacy implications go far beyond what can be revealed by the metadata of a single telephone call,” the majority wrote.”