White House rejects privacy board findings

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The White House said Thursday it rejected an analysis from a five-member federal privacy review board that found the program collecting Americans' telephone data illegal and ineffective.

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In a report released earlier in the day, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board said it identified only one instance in which the terror program helped authorities identify a terrorist. It also argued the Patriot Act does "not provide an adequate legal basis to support the program."

But White House press secretary Jay Carney said members of the administration "simply disagree with the board's analysis on the legality of the program."

The White House spokesman also said the president believed the metadata program, "combined with the other programs and efforts that are undertaken as part of our signal intelligence collection, have had the effect of making Americans more safe, of disrupting potential terrorist plots against the United States and the American people as well as our allies, and that it is a useful tool in the effort to combat terrorists."

The board, created as part of the response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, does not have any authority to implement changes to government procedures.

Still, the board's findings could create headaches for the White House. In a speech Friday, the president largely defended the program, while proposing modest reforms that would designate an outside party — rather than the government — to hold the metadata, and require a specific court order to query the database.

But Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the report underscored the need to end the program.

"The report reaffirms the conclusion of many that the Section 215 bulk phone records program has not been critical to our national security, is not worth the intrusion on Americans' privacy, and should be shut down immediately," Leahy said in a statement.

"The report appropriately calls into question the legality and constitutionality of the program, and underscores the need to change the law to rein in the government's overbroad interpretation of Section 215," he added.

Carney said Obama recognized that "we can and should make changes in the program that will give the American people greater confidence in it."

"He is making changes and wants others, including Congress, to work with him to make other changes and reforms to ensure that the program is not subject to abuse and that while it is still allowed to help us combat terrorism and the threats against us," Carney said.