Privacy board to tackle spying programs

A federal privacy board will release its next analysis of U.S. spying programs next week.

The new report from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), which earlier this year declared that the National Security Agency’s (NSA) phone records collection program was illegal, will examine the agency’s collection of foreigners’ data.

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The analysis comes as the Senate continues debate on legislation to overhaul the NSA’s operations and could provide ammunition to reformers looking for major changes.

The PCLOB’s report “will contain a detailed analysis” of programs targeting foreigners authorized under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, it said. The government has cited that section of the law as authorization for its controversial PRISM program, which allows agents at the NSA to tap into networks at Facebook, Google and other major websites to scoop up information.

“It will address the Section 702 program's development and operation, statutory basis, constitutional implications, and whether it strikes the right balance between national security and privacy and civil liberties, and will make recommendations for policy reforms,” the PCLOB announced.

Section 702 allows the government to target foreigners “reasonably believed” to be outside U.S. borders.

However, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has admitted that the government has previously used “U.S. person identifiers” to collect “foreign intelligence targeting non-U.S. persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States.” 

Privacy advocates have been livid over the admission. They accused the intelligence community of using a legal loophole to spy on Americans, potentially in violation of the constitutional right to privacy.

The five-member PCLOB will vote on an release its report in Washington on July 2. 

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