OTI and Coalition Urge Prompt Consideration of Nominees to Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board

Press Release
Aug. 29, 2018

Today, New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI) joined a coalition of 31 organizations dedicated to promoting privacy, civil liberties and government accountability, in sending a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee urging them to consider President Trump’s final two nominees to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) as expeditiously as possible.

The PCLOB is an independent agency charged with reviewing counterterrorism programs to ensure that they include adequate safeguards for privacy and civil liberties. It is headed by a bipartisan board of five members, with three members required for a quorum, and it has lacked a quorum for over nineteen months. The president has now named a full bipartisan slate of five members, and the Senate Judiciary Committee has already held hearings on the first three nominees. The coalition letter explicitly does not endorse any of the individual candidates, but highlights the critical need for a full slate of new nominees to be confirmed so that the agency can resume its important work conducting oversight and providing advice regarding counterterrorism laws and programs.

The letter states that:

During the four and one-half years in which the PCLOB operated with a quorum, it played a valuable role, including conducting a review of the Section 215 program and bringing to light critical details about government surveillance programs. The PCLOB also performed significant work to create a new independent agency from scratch, and to establish crucial relationships with other federal agencies, Members of Congress, and the public. . . . Without a quorum, the PCLOB cannot issue oversight reports, provide the agency’s advice, or build upon the agency foundations laid by the original members.

The following statement can be attributed to Sharon Bradford Franklin, Director of Surveillance and Cybersecurity Policy at New America’s Open Technology Institute, former Executive Director of the PCLOB:

“It is a shame that the PCLOB has now lacked a quorum of members for over one and one-half years, and appalling that during the eleven years since Congress first created the PCLOB as an independent agency, the PCLOB has only operated with a quorum for four and one-half years. Now that the president has finally named a full bipartisan slate of nominees, the Senate Judiciary Committee should act promptly to move the process forward, so that we do not lose more time before the PCLOB can resume its critical role in ensuring that our nation’s counterterrorism programs include essential safeguards for privacy and civil liberties.”