Friday, January 24, 2014

The NSA's Spying Is Illegal and Needs to End, Says a Federal Watchdog


PCLOB members meet with President Obama on June 21 of last year, soon after the first PRISM stories broke. 

The NSA's bulk metadata collection program today received one of the most significant blows since such programs first came to light, with an independent federal oversight group saying the NSA's activities are both ineffectual and illegal.

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) was formed in 2007 to be a privacy watchdog surveying the government's various counterterror activities. Because overseeing activities as PRISM et. al is the board's core mission, observers have been anticipating comment from the five-person panel.

The PCLOB is scheduled to make its first statements on the NSA's activities at a public meeting this afternoon, but the New York Times got an early copy of the board's 238-page report, and it doesn't hold punches, saying unequivocally that the government should end the metadata collection program because the root legal argument for such collection is flawed.

NSA's metadata collection is governed by Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which has been interpreted (page 10) by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to guarantee government access to the data it needs to catch criminals, while also guaranteeing privacy protections.

How are those seemingly disparate goals balanced? FISC required that the NSA's data collection follow "adequate minimization procedures" that ensure the agency only looks at the data of legitimate suspects. FISC's actual ruling focuses on terrorism:

For the rest of the story:

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