WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Wednesday thanked the members of the White House Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) for their service over the past three years and called on the White House to hasten its nomination of members to a newly strengthened, replacement board.
The old board – first created under the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act – expires Wednesday. But the administration has not been forthcoming about any preparations it may have made for the new board, reconfigured under the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
“I am grateful to those who served on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board for the work they have done,” Lieberman said, “but I am concerned that the lack of transition planning to the new board has created a gap in the vital oversight we need as we respond to the new threats posed by terrorism. I urge the President to move swiftly to nominate members to the new board to preserve the public’s faith in our promise to protect their privacy and civil liberties as we work to protect the country against terrorism.”
“I commend Chairman Dinkins and the other members of the Board for their hard work and dedication to the cause of safeguarding our fundamental liberties. Our decision to strengthen the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board reflects their experience and a desire to ensure the Board’s independence,” Collins said. “The White House’s failure to move forward with appointing the new board is unacceptable, and I call on the Administration to do so as quickly as possible to prevent a gap in this vital mission.”
The new board will serve the same functions as the old board of advising the President and other members of the executive branch on the privacy and civil liberties implications of new terrorism policies or regulations and overseeing and investigating subsequent government actions to ensure that privacy and civil liberties are upheld.
The new board has been given greater authorities, however, by removing it from the White House, requiring that its five members be Senate confirmed, and giving the board authority to issue subpoenas through the Attorney General. Other changes to the board will require that no more than three members can be of one party; the board will have expanded responsibilities to hold public hearings and inform the public of its activities; and the board will be required to tell Congress if the Attorney General refuses to issue a subpoena it requests. The 2007 9/11 Commission implementation act required that the administration and Congress work together to appoint new board members “in a timely manner to provide for the continuing operation of the Board.” The Administration has nominated no new board members to date.