Secrecy News

Momentum Grows for Privacy & Civil Liberties Board

Members of Congress are urging the Obama Administration to activate the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent agency that is supposed to monitor and defend civil liberties in the development and implementation of counterterrorism policies.

Last week, Rep. Bennie Thompson and Rep. Jane Harman wrote to the President and asked him to appoint members to the vacant Board, which has a budget for the current fiscal year that remains unexpended.

“Given the recent events of December 25, 2009, and the prospective policy changes that will be made subsequent to this incident, including potential expansion of watch lists and widespread use of body-scanning technology, we believe that the Board will give an anxious public confidence that appropriate rights are respected,” they wrote.

Their letter was reported by Eli Lake in the Washington Times today.  See “Liberties oversight panel gets short shrift,” February 2.

The White House expects to name the Board leadership “soon,” a spokesman told the Times.

First proposed by the 9/11 Commission, the Board was originally set up within the Executive Office of the President.  But after concerns about its independence and freedom of action arose, Congress enacted legislation in 2007 to establish it as an independent agency.

For further background see “Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board: New Independent Agency Status” (pdf), Congressional Research Service.