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PCLOB: White House Isn’t Measuring Whether its War on Terror Plans Work

It’s been nearly fourteen years since the passage of the USA Patriot Act and the initiation of massive programs of surveillance and military interdiction that are supposed to have been enacted in order to stop the terrorists who, we’ve been told for nearly fourteen years, are going to strike again any… minute… now.

And yet, nearly fourteen years after the unleashing of Homeland Security, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has let slip a crucial detail: the U.S. government has no idea how to assess whether its anti-terrorism programs are actually doing anything.

An excerpt from a January 2015 report by the PCLOB that hardly anyone has read:

Recommendation 10: Develop a Methodology to Assess the Value of Counterterrorism Programs

Status: Not implemented

Text of the Board’s Recommendation:
The government should develop a comprehensive methodology for assessing the efficacy and relative value of counterterrorism programs.

Explanation for the Recommendation:
Determining the efficacy and value of particular counterterrorism programs is critical. Without such determinations, policymakers and courts cannot effectively weigh the interests of the government in conducting a program against the intrusions on privacy and civil liberties that it may cause. Accordingly, the Board believes that the government should develop a methodology to gauge and assign value to its counterterrorism programs, and use that methodology to determine if particular programs are meeting their stated goals.

Forget the constitutionality of all this for a moment. Fourteen years later, figuring out what works and what doesn’t would be kind of nice, too.

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