The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversights Board, which originally criticized the National Security Agency’s collection of phone records from Americans, has changed its stance regarding the agency’s actions.
Instead of viewing the NSA’s manipulation of Internet connections in the United States as a negative venture, the board has chosen to argue that the NSA’s actions are in line with the Constitution.
According to the New York Times, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversights Board was deemed by Congress as an independent agency in 2007, and became fully operational around the time that Edward Snowden began releasing documents from the NSA.
The board is backing up their new view on the NSA with a reference to Section 702 of the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act, or as they call it the “702 collection.”
The most recent report published by the privacy board stated that the Section 702 program “has enabled the government to acquire a greater range of foreign intelligence than it otherwise would have been able to obtain – and to do so quickly and effectively.”
In addition to supporting the collection of data from Americans’ telephone records, the privacy board also supports the 702 program’s involvement in foreign affairs. The program does everything from spying on the calls and emails of foreign governments and their leaders, to tracking nuclear proliferation.
The latest report from the privacy board claimed that meddling in the business of foreign countries “has proven valuable in the government’s efforts to combat terrorism as well as in other areas of foreign intelligence.”
The privacy board’s change of heart has drawn criticism from privacy and civil liberties groups. The deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Jameel Jaffer, described the report as being weak, and said that it ” fails to fully grasp the civil liberties and human rights implications of permitting the government sweeping access to the communications of innocent people.”
“It is jarring to read this report just weeks after the House voted to limit the NSA’s ‘backdoor’ searches, and just days after the Supreme Court’s cellphone-search decision defending privacy rights in the digital age,” said Jaffer.