Privacy & Civil Liberties Oversight Board Invites Public Input

10.24.12 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The long-dormant Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) announced that it will hold its first public meeting next week and it invited members of the public to provide input to help shape the Board’s near-term agenda.

“In anticipation of setting the agenda of issues on which the Board will focus its attention, the Board would welcome the views of nongovernmental organizations and members of the public,” stated a notice in the October 23 Federal Register.

The PCLOB was created in response to a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission that “there should be a board within the executive branch to oversee… the commitment the government makes to defend our civil liberties.”

By statute, the PCLOB is mandated to “(1) analyze and review actions the executive branch takes to protect the Nation from terrorism, ensuring that the need for such actions is balanced with the need to protect privacy and civil liberties; and (2) ensure that liberty concerns are appropriately considered in the development and implementation of laws, regulations, and policies related to efforts to protect the Nation against terrorism.”

In response to the announcement of next week’s meeting, we wrote in to propose that the PCLOB should review the government’s problematic use of Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. “The use of Section 215, the so-called ‘business records’ provision, is the subject of intense and unresolved controversy that warrants the Board’s attention,” we suggested.

Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall have stated that “most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted section 215 of the Patriot Act.”  If so, the members of the PCLOB can be stunned on behalf of most Americans by virtue of the security clearances and right of access that they possess.

For background on the origins and development of the PCLOB, see Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board: New Independent Agency Status, Congressional Research Service, August 27, 2012.