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Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board Introduces Website and First Report

Empowered to subpoena testimony and documents from the U.S. Government, evaluate the constitutionality of “War on Terror” programs, and report its findings to Congress and the public, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) was supposed to have begun its activities in 2008. But President Barack Obama refused to nominate any members of the board for years, and Congress further stymied the seating of the Board by stalling President Obama’s tardy nominations. As a result, it wasn’t until the Fall of 2012 that any members were seated on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, although those members were unable to take action without a confirmed Chair. It was not until May of 2013 that a chair for the PCLOB was confirmed and the board itself was activated — five years behind schedule.

Given the snail’s pace at which the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board was initiated by the President and Congress, it’s impressive to see that the 5-member Board itself has moved at a faster pace. Two months into its term of full existence, the PCLOB has unveiled its website containing a list of downloadable documents. These documents include the board’s first legally-mandated 6-month report. To be frank, this report is dry, boring and mostly empty because it covers the period from September 2013 to March 2013, when the PCLOB had four members but no Chair and could not engage in any significant activity. But starting six months from now, you should watch this space:

PCLOB report on being overruled by the Obama administration and requests for subpoenas that were denied or modified by the Attorney General

This section of the report will let us know of instances in which Attorney General Eric Holder has turned aside subpoena requests regarding our constitutional rights, and will also tell us when the Obama administration has acted contrary to the board’s recommendations. Now that the board is becoming semi-active, I’m interested to see what the next report has to say about government resistance.

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