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Government Surveillance

Privacy Board Joins Growing Consensus: NSA Bulk Phone Records Dragnet Must End

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) report released today is the latest condemnation of the National Security Agency’s bulk metadata collection program. A majority of PCLOB members found that the program, which the NSA says is authorized under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, was not supported by the statute and violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The Board also found no evidence that the program was necessary to protect national security. The Board recommended ending the program and recommended against substituting for the existing program a requirement that phone companies or another party hold the phone records. The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) issued the following statement about the PCLOB report:

“The Privacy Board now joins the President’s Review Group, a federal court, and many members of Congress in calling for an end to the NSA’s bulk collection of phone call records. PCLOB’s report invalidates the government’s argument that the program is lawful. This will not only influence the debates in Congress, but it should persuade more courts to reject it,” said Nuala O’Connor, CDT President & CEO.

“Like the President’s Review Group, PCLOB found that the program is not a necessary counterterrorism tool. The report says, with respect to threats to the U.S., that the telephony metadata program never made a concrete difference to a counterterrorism investigation, and never directly contributed to the discovery or disruption of a terrorist attack. Coupled with the strong privacy threats the program poses, there is no compelling argument for continuing it,” added O’Connor.

“The PCLOB report demonstrates that the President did not go far enough in his reform recommendations last week. Rather than shifting bulk collection to another authority or narrowing the number of records accessed with each NSA query, the President should follow the recommendations of his handpicked Review Group and the independent PCLOB, and he should support legislation intended to end the program, like the USA FREEDOM Act,” O’Connor concluded.