For years, Barack Obama and congressional leadership worked together to prevent the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board from even coming into existence. Even after the board was finally created, it was slow to engage in robust oversight activities. Finally, seven years after its protections were first promised, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has taken action.
This afternoon, the Board will finally release a report in which it concludes that electronic spying programs by the U.S. military’s National Security Agency are illegal and are ineffective to protect Americans from terrorism. We don’t yet have the report in our hands, but journalists who have been briefed on the report give us the following conclusions by the Board:
– The NSA spying program creates an unacceptable likelihood “that personal information collected by the government will be used to harass, blackmail or intimidate” Americans who challenge government policies.
– In spite of what people at the NSA have told Congress, the Board examined the available data and reports, “We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation.” The Board calls the NSA spying of “minimal value” in preventing terrorist attack.
– The Patriot Act Section 215 doesn’t justify the NSA surveillance: “The board concludes that Section 215 does not provide an adequate legal basis to support the program.” Furthermore, even if the Patriot Act did provide a legal foundation for the spying program, the Board’s report states, the program would violate Americans’ Fourth Amendment constitutional rights.