Intelligence agencies in the United States should have a few more eyes on their operations, according to U.S. Rep. James Himes, D-4th District.
Introduced by Himes at the tail-end of April, H.R. 2108 would require reports submitted to Congress by agencies such as the NSA and CIA to also be submitted to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB).
Himes said in a release that his introduction of the so-called “PCLOB Oversight Enhancement Act” was directly connected to the proposed reauthorization of H.R. 2048, the USA Freedom Act.
That bill extends and puts some limits on the ability of intelligence-gathering agencies to monitor domestic data. Should the bill pass, government agencies would only be allowed to get information from telecommunications companies when there is a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” of international terrorism, connected to a “specific selection term,” according to an analysis by activist organization Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Himes wants to take the issue a small step forward. As a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Himes regularly receives reports from intelligence agencies, pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. He wants those same reports to be delivered as well to the nation’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.
“This legislation would ensure that the PCLOB has the same timely and accurate reports I receive as a member of the Intelligence Committee,” he said. “As we consider reauthorization of the USA Freedom Act, I will continue advocating for this improvement to ensure that we strike the right balance between protecting our security and respecting our citizens’ rights and privacy.”
Members of the PCLOB are appointed by the president and confirmed by Congress. the board was created in 2007 and tasked with to reviewing and analyzing “actions the executive branch takes to protect the nation from terrorism,” weighing those actions against “the need to protect privacy and civil liberties,” according to the board’s website.
In April, the five-member board said it would be taking a closer look at how spy agencies are using the 1981 Executive Order 12333 to collect data. After Edward Snowden released information regarding an NSA program intended to collect phone records in bulk, the PCLOB found that program counter to Section 215 of the Patriot Act and an ineffective tool to prevent possible terror attacks.
According to Himes, authorizing access to congressional intelligence reports would allow the board to better do its job.
“The PCLOB has been tasked with protecting our citizens’ civil liberties, but it currently lacks the necessary information from our intelligence community to provide effective oversight,” he said.
Jordan Fenster lives with his family in Fairfield County. He can be reached by or @JordanFenster on Twitter.
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