Bill Introduced To Give Privacy And Civil Liberties Oversight Board More Actual Power

from the would-help dept

A bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives introduced some new legislation to give the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) some more power. Called the Strengthening Privacy, Oversight and Transparency (SPOT) Act, it would make the jobs of PCLOB members full time, rather than the part-time position it is today, and expand their powers beyond just dealing with privacy and civil liberties issues related to counterterrorism. Most importantly, however, it would give the PCLOB subpoena powers, rather than having it rely on the Justice Department, whose views might conflict with the PCLOB. As you may recall, the PCLOB has been investigating the powers under which the NSA conducts its surveillance, having put out a report that ripped apart the bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, but which more or less found Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act to be acceptable. It’s currently investigating Executive Order 12333, which many have argued is where the real “power” for surveillance comes from these days.

While we disagreed with parts of the board’s analysis of Section 702, on the whole, the PCLOB does a pretty good job looking deep into issues that were previously swept entirely under the rug. Having more power to actually delve into what different government agencies are doing and how it impacts the public’s civil liberties and privacy rights seems like it would be fairly useful. After years of total neglect (seriously: the board was entirely unstaffed and dormant for five years until recently), just having a PCLOB was a step forward — but giving it real powers would be an even bigger push towards protecting the public’s rights from a government that seems all too eager to diminish those same rights.

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