Privacy Board Holds Public Meeting on NSA Surveillance Programs

On July 9, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) held a day-long workshop, open to the public, to discuss surveillance programs conducted under the USA Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The event consisted of three panels of experts, including civil liberties advocates and former government officials, providing legal, technical, and policy perspectives.

Sharon Bradford Franklin, senior counsel at TCP, testified before the Board on the Policy Perspectives panel, advocating for reforms to the statutory authorities used to collect Americans’ communications and telephony metadata, and urging the PCLOB to promote transparency surrounding government surveillance programs. Franklin emphasized the concerns raised by secret interpretation of the law. “It shouldn’t take a leak of classified information for us to learn what the law means,” she said.

The Hon. James Robertson, former U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia and a member of TCP’s Liberty and Security Committee, participated on the Legal Perspectives panel.  Judge Robertson, who previously served as a judge on the FISA Court, called for serious restructuring of the secret, non-adversarial court, and most importantly, an open debate on the issues.  He referred to TCP’s FISA Amendments Act report as a source of possible reform ideas.

TCP also submitted a written statement to the Board, outlining reform recommendations in more detail.  Most of those recommendations flowed directly from TCP’s Liberty and Security Committee’s reports, Statement on Reforming the Patriot Act in 2009 and its Report on the FISA Amendment Act in 2012.

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