The Senate has voted to confirm David Medine as Chairman of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), one year after he was favorably reported by the Judiciary Committee and nine months after the Senate moved to confirm four other nominees to the Board. In a statement earlier today, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) lamented the delay in taking up Medine’s nomination, but noted that after a year of obstruction the PCLOB “will finally be able to begin to carry out its important work on behalf of the American people.”
Created in 2004 by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act(P.L. 108-458) at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, the PCLOB is charged with reviewing privacy and civil liberties issues impacted by the government‘s national security policies and programs. But hampered by politicking, the board made little progress in the first several years of its existence. AALL has repeatedly expressed concern that without nominated and confirmed members, the PCLOB could not perform its critical mission to ensure post-9/11 intelligence collection efforts do not improperly infringe on Americans’ rights. Although the Senate had confirmed the other four members of board last summer, the chair is the board’s only full-time member and only member with the authority to hire a staff.
AALL applauds the confirmation of David Medine today as a considerable step forward. We have recently joined several civil liberties organizations to urge the PCLOB’s focus on a variety of issues related to national security policies and programs, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), classification policy, cybersecurity, state secrets privilege, National Security Letters (NSLs), and the PATRIOT Act. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which recently passed the House, would assign additional oversight responsibilities to the Board regarding the government’s use of data collected from private companies. It is our hope that with the confirmation of Chairman Medine, the Board will finally be able to begin to make progress on its crucial mission.