After three and a quarter years of non-existence, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board for the federal government was finally brought into being with the nomination and confirmation of four members in August of 2012. Unfortunately, this board cannot exercise any of its legal powers to investigate and report on unconstitutional activity within the government because it does not have a chair and therefore cannot spend a dime on its activities. The most that the PCLOB has been able to do is convene a single hasty October meeting in which it gathered advice about what it should do if it ever gets a chair. There have been no meetings of the PCLOB since.
Fortunately, there has been a step in the right direction this week. On January 22, President Barack Obama re-nominated David Medine for the chairmanship of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. If the Senate Judiciary committee moves the nomination along, and if the Senate votes to confirm Medine, then finally the PCLOB can begin using its subpoena and reporting powers to expose violations of civil liberty by the United States government. Those are two very big “ifs,” but it is better to move forward than not to move at all.