Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) is an independent agency within the executive branch of the United States government, established by Congress in 2004 to advise the President and other senior executive branch officials to ensure that concerns with respect to privacy and civil liberties are appropriately considered in the development and implementation of all laws, regulations, and executive branch policies related to terrorism.[1]

Role and operations[edit]

The purpose of the board is two-fold: to analyze and review actions the executive branch takes to protect the nation from terrorism, ensuring that the need for such actions is balanced with the need to protect privacy and civil liberties; and to ensure that liberty concerns are appropriately considered in the development and implementation of law, regulations and policies related to efforts to protect the nation against terrorism.

The Board has two main functions: (a) advice and counsel on policy development and implementation and (b) oversight. Its functions include reviewing proposed legislation, regulations and policies; advising the President and the departments and agencies of the executive branch; and continually reviewing the implementation of the regulations, policies, and procedures of the executive branch relating to terrorism to ensure that privacy and civil liberties are protected. In addition, the Board is specifically charged with responsibility for reviewing the terrorism information sharing practices of executive branch departments and agencies to determine whether they adhere to guidelines designed to appropriately protect privacy and civil liberties are being followed.[2][3] In the course of performing these functions, the Board shall coordinate with the privacy and civil liberties officers in the relevant departments and agencies.

The Board is authorized to have access to all relevant information necessary to fulfill its role, including classified information consistent with applicable law. The Board is required to report to Congress not less than semiannually.


Recommended by the 9/11 Commission Report issued on July 22, 2004, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board was initially established by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.[4] It consisted of five members appointed by the President. The Board was part of the Executive Office of the President and was supported by an Executive Director and staff.

The original Board members were Carol E. Dinkins, of Texas, Chairwoman; Alan Charles Raul, of the District of Columbia, Vice Chairman; Theodore B. Olson, of Virginia; Lanny Davis, of Maryland, and Francis X. Taylor, of Maryland. The Chairwoman and Vice Chairman were confirmed by the Senate on February 17, 2006. All Board members were sworn in and had their first meeting on March 14, 2006. On May 14, 2007, one of the Board members, Lanny Davis resigned, charging that the White House had sought to control the content of a Board report.[5]

H.R. 1 ("Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007"), introduced on January 5, 2007, included provisions reconstituting the board as an independent agency, composed of 5 members serving staggered six-year terms, with all five members subject to Senate confirmation. H.R. 1 was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on January 9, 2007. The Senate companion bill, ("Improving America's Security Act of 2007", S. 4), passed on March 13, 2007. When the bills were reconciled in conference, the House language prevailed. President Bush signed the legislation, the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act, into law on August 3, 2007.[6] The changes took effect in January 2008, at which time the original Board ceased to exist.

Criticism of PCLOB[edit]

Many people[who?] view PCLOB as a propaganda arm of the US government. The board was convened to protect the American public against privacy intrusions by their own government, such as the NSA electronic surveillance program and PRISM (surveillance program). In the wake of the Edward Snowden security breach, it has been discovered that PCLOB, while being establish in 2004, had never held a substantive hearing until 11/4/2013.[7]


President George W. Bush's first three nominations to the revamped PCLOB were received in the Senate on February 27, 2008. They were Daniel W. Sutherland, Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the Department of Homeland Security, to serve a six-year term as chair of the board; Ronald D. Rotunda, professor of law at George Mason University, to serve a four-year term as a member of the PCLOB; and Francis X. Taylor, a former member of the board, to a serve a two-year term. On September 8, 2008, President Bush made a fourth nomination, of James X. Dempsey, vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, to serve a five-year term. The nominations were referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. No further action was taken on those nominations by the 110th Congress.[5]

In December 2010, President Barack Obama nominated two persons to the Board: Dempsey, and Elisebeth Collins Cook, a former Assistant Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice and, at the time, a partner in a Chicago lawfirm.[8][9][10] Those nominations expired at the end of the 111th Congress.

In January 2011, President Obama re-nominated Dempsey and Cook.[11] In December 2011, the Obama administration announced an effort to revitalize the Board as a check against its proposed cybersecurity policies and measures.[12] The President made three additional nominations: David Medine, a former associate director of the Federal Trade Commission, as Chairman; Rachel L. Brand, Chief Counsel for Regulatory Litigation at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a former Assistant Attorney General at the United States Department of Justice, as a Member; and Patricia M. Wald, a former federal appeals-court judge, as a Member.[13]

On August 2, 2012, the Senate confirmed four of the Board members: Dempsey, Brand, Cook and Wald.[14] The Senate did not act upon the nomination of David Medine to be chair that time.

The White House renominated Medine in January 2013,[15] and the Senate confirmed him on May 7, 2013 in a 53-45, party-line vote.[16]

Proposed CISPA Effect on Board Responsibility[edit]

The House bill H.R. 3523: Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011, known as CISPA, would make PCLOB responsible for reporting on privacy and civil liberty intrusions under its information sharing program. Specifically, CISPA proposed that the PCLOB issue annual reports on the civil liberties and privacy impact of CISPA's provisions for the sharing of "cyber threat" information and intelligence between the government and private companies.[17]

See also[edit]

General references[edit]

External links[edit]