After 911 the Congress created a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to insure that actions taken by the National Security Agency were consistent with Constitutional protection of Americans privacy.
They dropped a bombshell today.
An independent board tasked with reviewing National Security Agency surveillance called Thursday for the government to end its mass data collection program and “purge” its files, declaring the program illegal in a major challenge to President Obama.
The president did not go nearly as far when he called last week for ending government control of phone data collected from hundreds of millions of Americans. In its report, obtained by Fox News and scheduled for release Thursday afternoon, The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) said the program ran afoul of the law on several fronts.
“The … bulk telephone records program lacks a viable legal foundation,” the board’s report said, adding that it raises “serious threats to privacy and civil liberties” and has “only limited value.”
“As a result, the Board recommends that the government end the program,” the panel wrote.
The second paragraph quoted above is overly kind to the President’s proposal. He read a nice sounding speech from his TelePrompTer about civil liberties and made exactly no changes to the NSA program.
He said he wanted to require “a warrant” for searches for individual records, a warrant that would be issued by the FISA Court. The FISA Court has issued hundreds of thousands of warrants since 1978 – all in secret, with no review – and they’ve denied about 100.
The President also wanted the bulk records stored either at the telecommunications companies or at a third party. In the world of dumb ideas that one is pretty close to king. There’s no assurance that either option would be secure and all that would certainly be added are additional layers of complexity and cost.
Needless to say, the Representatives and Senators who are supposed to be overseeing the NSA are in high dudgeon.
The recommendations are sure to meet resistance in Washington. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who has been a staunch defender of the NSA, voiced dismay at the report’s findings.
“I am disappointed that three members of the Board decided to step well beyond their policy and oversight role and conducted a legal review of a program that has been thoroughly reviewed,” he said in a statement, noting that federal judges have found the program to be legal dozens of times.
Here’s the problem Chairman Rogers. In order to allow an agency like the NSA to gather data in secret, with essentially no oversight, you have to have the trust of the American people.
You don’t have that any more. Trust in government in general is at all time lows, and trust in specific agencies like the IRS or NSA is non-existent.
The IRS has spent the last five years blatantly breaking the law and when the President – who was “outraged” – called for an FBI investigation, the FBI stonewalled the Congress, appointed a long time Obama/Democrat donor to lead it, they spoke to exactly none of the targeted groups, and declared that no laws had been broken.
With respect to Congressional oversight of the NSA, that doesn’t even rise to the level of a bad joke. The head of NSA testifies under oath before the Senate Committee that has oversight responsibilities of them and he commits perjury. After Edward Snowden released documents showing that the NSA was, in fact, collecting information on every American he came back and “apologized”. He should be in jail.
So Chairman Rogers, President Obama, and any other Washington “leader”, you can pound sand with your demands to be able to collect massive amounts of data on us. We don’t trust you because you’ve shown yourselves to untrustworthy.
We kept hearing how this program – and probably lots of others we don’t yet know about – are “keeping us safe”. Supposedly the NSA has stopped dozens of plots to kill Americans. We find it interesting that nobody can produce even one to showcase, even in confidential hearings.
It’s unfortunate that the Board making the recommendations can’t do anything but publish a report. You can be sure that the President and the Congress – but especially the President – are not going to give up their ability to know where you are and what you’re doing every minute of the day without a real fight.
As for the argument that we’ll be less safe, here at The Curmudgeon, we’re more concerned about what our own government will do with this information than we are about a terrorist or two not being found. They haven’t found one yet, but agencies of the government have done, and attempted, significant damage against American citizens.
So Chairman Rogers, and anybody else who supports spying on American citizens, stuff it.