Kudos To Senator Leahy: Fighting To Keep Privacy & Civil Liberties Board From Being Hobbled
from the keep-at-it dept
While I think that Senator Patrick Leahy has been ridiculously and dangerously wrong on copyright issues for years, he’s actually quite good on a number of other issues that are of interest to us here at Techdirt. In particular, he’s been a strong supporter of civil liberties on the internet and protecting the 4th Amendment (it’s unfortunate that he doesn’t see how his desired copyright policies might undermine some of that, but that’s another post for another day). Thankfully, his latest move is to push back against a plan by the Senate and House Intelligence Committees to strip the federal government’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Board (PCLOB).
Back in May, we wrote about this effort, whereby Congress appeared to be deliberately stripping powers from the PCLOB in order to limit the board’s ability to actually make sure that the intelligence community wasn’t abusing its powers. Senator Leahy has now sent a fairly direct letter to Senate Intelligence chair Senator Richard Burr and vice chair Senator Dianne Feinstein calling out how terrible this plan is.
The letter calls out the “pattern” that has been put in place by both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to one by one by one strip powers from the PCLOB. After giving a bunch of examples of this playing out, with the language stripping the powers being agreed upon in secret (of course), Leahy notes:
The PCLOB has served a valuable role in reviewing government surveillance programs and recommending reforms that have largely been implemented by the executive branch. It is particularly inappropriate to debate and report legislation in a closed markup that is designed to diminish the authority of a public, independent oversight board. Congress should b enhancing its role, not undercutting it.
It then asks them to remove these PCLOB-undermining provisions from the intel re-authorization bill. Of course, Feinstein and Burr want to hobble the PCLOB because they’ve long been cheerleaders for widespread surveillance, and have actively fought against any real or significant oversight. There’s a reason why these riders undermining the PCLOB keep showing up, and it’s because Senators like Feinstein and Burr are deliberately trying to protect the intelligence community from oversight. So unless some bigger force comes along, it’s doubtful this letter will have much of a direct impact. But, even so, kudos to Leahy for sending the letter as a starting point. Hopefully he follows through and continues to keep the pressure up.