Federal Privacy Civil Liberties Oversight Board to Meet about NSA Prism

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Board, a low-profile panel about which we rarely hear, will meet next week to discuss the NSA’s PRISM program. I wrote about the PCLOB a few months ago, when the Senate was going to confirm a new chairman for the obscure group. 

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) was created in 2004 after the 9/11 Commission recommended the creation of a board to safeguard civil liberties and oversee the new authorities granted to the security agencies. The PCLOB was slow to develop, holding its first meeting in 2006. The original chair of the board, Lanny Davis, resigned citing disagreements with the White House. In 2007, legislation updated the board’s statute and established the board as an independent agency within the executive branch. Subsequent nominees were stalled for months, until 2010 when Obama nominated two members and then three additional members in 2011. 

The meeting Wednesday is “to discuss classified information pertaining to the PRISM-related activities and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.” We can only hope the collection of cell-phone metadata will make it onto that agenda. 

Mark Rumold, staff attorney for the Electronic Freedom Foundation said “It’s certainly a step in the right direction. It’s probably as much as anything part of some damage control by NSA, which might be trying to reach out and clean up its image a little bit.”