Friday, January 30, 2015

Obama must finally end NSA phone record collection, says privacy board - Guardian

White House could take action ‘at any time’, says Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board chair as key Patriot Act measure is poised to expire

The US government’s privacy board is calling out President Barack Obama for continuing to collect Americans’ phone data in bulk, a year after it urged an end to the controversial National Security Agency program.

The Obama administration could cease the mass acquisition of US phone records “at any time”, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) said in an assessment it issued on Thursday.

The PCLOB’s assessment comes amid uncertainty over the fate of legislation to cease that collection. An effort intended to stop it, known as the USA Freedom Act, failed in the Senate in November. While the administration said after its defeat that Obama would push for a new bill, it has yet to do so in the new Congress, and the president has thus far pledged in his State of the Union address only to update the public on how the bulk-surveillance program now works in practice.

David Medine, the PCLOB chairman, said on Thursday that the administration was acting in “good faith” and had agreed in principle to most of the 22 reform recommendations the board had offered in its two 2014 reports into bulk NSA surveillance. The board’s report found that the administration had in many cases not implemented recommendations it agreed to in principle, such as assessing whether the NSA is successfully filtering out purely domestic communications when it siphons data directly from the “backbone” of the internet.

Medine reiterated his call for Obama to cease the domestic bulk phone records collection unilaterally.

“At some point, you have to draw the line and say you have to act on your own, because this program isn’t particularly effective. A better alternative is to go to the phone companies on a case-by-case basis,” Medine told the Guardian.

“It’s now well past time for the administration to have developed alternative procedures and alternative relationships with the telephone companies to stop the daily flow of data to the government,” said James Dempsey, another member of the PCLOB.  Read More


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