Privacy Watchdog: NSA Phone Snooping Must End

Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board report condemns NSA's phone data collection

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A government watchdog said Thursday that the National Security Agency’s mass collection of phone records is illegal and should be shut down.

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board set up by Congress in 2007 says in its report that the program exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has “minimal” benefits for national security. The panel claims there’s no legal basis for the bulk collection of telephone records, concluding “we believe the program must be ended.”

“We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation,” the board says in the 238-page report.

The report goes a step farther than last month’s report from a panel appointed by President Barack Obama in rejecting the option to move bulk data out of the hands of the government and requiring communication providers or a third party to hold the data.

In a series of recommendations, it urges the government to delete data sooner and restrict access to call records of people that are more than two degrees – and not three – from a suspect. The report concluded, with support from three of the five board members, that the practice should be shut down.

The report renews criticism of the National Security Agency’s practices a week after Obama announced planned reforms without actually ending the collection of mass data.

Privacy activists applauded the advisory board’s rebuke of the NSA practices.  

“The board’s report makes even clearer that the government’s surveillance policies, as well as our system of oversight, are in need of far-reaching reform,” Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “The report should spur immediate action by both the administration and Congress.”

11 comments
bojimbo26
bojimbo26

238 pages to say " Stop doing that or you'll get a smacked wrist " .

chrispy
chrispy

Okay, so what about Google? Shouldn't Google's violations of our privacy be illegal? If you have a problem with how the NSA has violated our privacy, then you should also have a problem with how Google is destroying our privacy. Personally, I think everyone should start using privacy-based sites such as DuckDuckGo, Ravetree, HushMail, etc. The NSA is different because we don't really have a choice there, but we do have the freedom to choose whether or not we use Google, Facebook, etc.

BruceStrong
BruceStrong

Collected all that data on US citizens with what results - None at all - Think it's time to close up shop!

buckshott
buckshott

Typical Congressional board - all mouth and no teeth. They meet and determine (by a slim 3-2 vote) that NSA phone data collection is illegal and should be shuttered, but do not have the authority to actually carry out their own recommendation or influence anyone else to do it.

voltlover00
voltlover00

Can we call Snowden a whistleblower now that we know he exposed illegal activities?

Woody_Brown
Woody_Brown

Well, what kind of power does this little known board actually have?  3 of 5 say illegal...does that mean that the board has concluded that the NSA's domestic spying is illegal.  And illegal upon what grounds? unconstitutional?

Do their activities lead to any legal next step?  Does congress have a responsibility to act upon their findings?

Why would they conclude illegality and then, in the same breath, recommend continued operations under changes like deleting data sooner and addressing customers as Mr. and Mrs.?

Thanks for the info Time.  Next time, just make a jpeg out of the press release and post it.

jmac
jmac

One of the two who said it wasn't illegal (Brand):  The government's legal theory was at least a reasonable reading made in good faith by numerous officials in two administrations of different parties."


Backing the legality up is Congress - which twice extended the expiration date of the surveillance without changes. 


This report did scrutinize in detail "a handful" of investigations that the program didn't directly contribute to the discovery of a known terrorist plot.   A handful?   This privacy watchdog might want to look at more than a handful to discredit the program and call it illegal. 

voltlover00
voltlover00

@jmac If the NSA's claim that they're not linking identity to phone numbers is true (it can't possibly be, though), then it would be impossible to initiate an investigation based on X called Y. Its merely data to find connections after they've already identified someone, but there is no reason for the NSA to hold all the data if they only care about 100 people. Make a request for specific data like any other government organization does.


Allowing the NSA to collect everything is based on the "if you're not doing anything wrong you don't have anything to worry about" sentiment - which is EXTREMELY un-American. By that logic, I can install a GPS recorder in the vehicle of every American, or a body implement to notify me if THC shows up in your blood. If you're not doing anything wrong....