Losing its Chair, Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board Loses its Power
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is the only body in the executive branch of the United States government with independent power to investigate and report on violations of the U.S. Constitution in the government’s “War on Terror.”
In one of the most under-reported stories of the summer, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) has been without a chair since July 1. The presence of a chair matters: according to the bylaws of the board, without a chair any single member of the PCLOB can entirely prevent action by the board by blocking the PCLOB entirely from meeting. Knowing this, consider that PCLOB board member Rachel Brand misled the nation regarding Patriot Act violations as a member of the Bush administration, repeatedly defended the government’s right to engage in intrusive and secret surveillance of citizens, and characterized DNA data sweeps of often innocent citizens as acceptable. PCLOB board member Elisebeth Collins Cook, another Bush appointee, also pushed for broad DNA sampling of the population by the U.S. Government. Cook also helped stall torture investigations, opposed the right of journalists to keep their sources secret, and pushed for the government to infiltrate law-abiding social movement groups to keep tabs on their activities.
President Barack Obama has known about the need for a new chair for the PCLOB since at least March 29, 2016, when the official announcement regarding Chair David Medine’s resignation was made public. As of July 31, 2016 President Obama has made no nomination for a replacement PCLOB Chair. With every additional day that passes, independent oversight of search, seizure, surveillance and other “anti-terror” programs of the government continues to be quietly but effectively blocked.
Watch this empty space.