It has been 737 days since Barack Obama took his oath of office to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” as President. One of his duties, legally mandated by a law passed in the 110th Congress, is to appoint members of a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. The board is empowered to act independently with subpoena power to investigate abuses of our constitutionally-protected civil liberties by the United States government, and to report on such abuses twice a year to Congress and the public. President Obama is bound not only by law but by his Oath of Office to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution by appointing the members of this Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. But for the first 703 days of his presidency, Obama failed to submit even one name in nomination to sit on the board. Contrary to federal law and Obama’s oath, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has been empty, null and void.
Last month, 703 days after taking office, President Obama finally nominated two individuals for membership on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. Those nominees, Elisebeth Collins Cook and James Xavier Dempsey, have not been seated on the board. They haven’t been confirmed to the board by the Senate, and indeed hearings and confirmation votes for the two nominees have not even been scheduled. So we now stand at 737 days into Barack Obama’s presidency, more than halfway through his term in office, without a functioning board whose object is to watchdog and safeguard Americans’ fundamental rights.
I’ve been wondering last why President Obama would nominate just two members of the five-member board. Today I read the law again (see Section 801) and found the answer. In order to meet and carry out its function, the board must achieve a quorum. The quorum is three members. And just in case you’re wondering, Barack Obama has made no move to nominate anyone for that crucial third seat.
The nomination of two members to sit on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is a sham, a stunt, an empty public relations move with no effect. Until a third member is nominated and all three are confirmed, this oversight board will not be able to meet.