Executive Branch Board Nixes NSA Bulk Collection

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has recommended that the government end its bulk telecom records collection program, a program President Obama defended last week even as he outlined ways to narrow and better police it.

The NSA record collection "lacks a viable legal foundation," a just-released report from the board concluded. In addition, the board said, the program "implicates constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments, raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties as a policy matter, and has shown only limited value."

The board is an executive branch agency charged with "review[ing] actions taken by the executive branch to protect the nation from terrorism" to make sure to properly balance the need for the info with protections of privacy and civil liberties.

And while the President suggested last week that someone other than the government should maintain the database of info the FCC is checking, the board said it should not be telecom companies. "The Board does not recommend that the government impose data retention requirements on providers in order to facilitate any system of seeking records directly from private databases."

It also wants the government to purge the database of information already collected and recommends that the Administration not push for legislation to codify the program or any other that involves bulk collection on a massive scale.

Computer & Communications Industry Association President & CEO Ed Black has testified several times before senators about his concerns about government surveillance, and the following can be attributed to him:

“We are encouraged that this latest report will add to the growing debate after a federal judge and the president’s review group also expressed serious misgivings about bulk data collection and other surveillance practices. These valuable, independent reviews will help as Congress continues to consider how to reform NSA programs and procedures."

Demand Progress, which opposes the data collection, was pleased with the finding. "“Last week the president recognized the real potential for abuse inherent in government surveillance of all Americans without justification. The president suggested superficial reforms," the group said in a statement, "but declared the programs were too important to eliminate. Today, an independent government watchdog created by Congress told us that it is simply not true.

To read the entire report, click here.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.