Privacy board to testify before Senate Judiciary

All five members of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next month, Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced on Wednesday.

On Feb. 12, the board members will testify about their recent conclusion that the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk collection of phone records is illegal.

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Leahy has been a vocal critic of the NSA’s collection of the phone records, known as metadata. Last year, he and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced the USA Freedom Act, which would end the phone records collection and make other reforms to the country’s surveillance programs.

The PCLOB is a small government agency that only recently became fully operational.

It issued a report last week declaring that the NSA’s metadata collection “lacks a viable legal foundation,” “raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties” and should be ended.

“The recommendations of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board add to the growing chorus calling for an end to the government’s dragnet collection of Americans’ phone records,” Leahy said in a written statement. “Congress must act to reform these programs and ensure Americans’ privacy and civil liberties.”

Two of the board’s members, both of whom worked in the Justice Department under former President George W. Bush, voted against calling the program illegal.

David Medine, the chairman of the privacy board, is also scheduled to testify at a House Judiciary Committee hearing next Tuesday, along with other government officials. 

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