Privacy Board Calls for End to Bulk Collection Program

January 23, 2014

The National Security Agency’s bulk phone records collection is illegal and should be shut down, according to a new report released today by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), an independent executive branch committee.

The report from the PCLOB – the oversight committee created by Congress in 2007 – found that the bulk collection of phone records has yielded only minimal benefits to counterterrorism efforts. It also details why the program is not consistent with the legal requirements of Section 215 of the Patriot Act. The PCLOB's recommendations to shut down the program come just one week after President Obama announced that the program would be reformed by moving the phone records out of the NSA's hands. They also follow a call to rein in the program issued by a review group the president appointed to examine NSA surveillance practices.

“The consensus is rapidly growing that the NSA's bulk collection of Americans' telephone records poses an unwarranted threat to Americans' privacy,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “First the President’s own hand-picked review group and now the government's institutional privacy watchdog have found that the dangers of the program outweigh the minimal benefits. Polls show that Americans agree. It is time for the program to end.”

“The PCLOB was set up by Congress to ensure that Americans' privacy was not compromised by the government's surveillance programs,” said Faiza Patel, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “It has spoken – and has found that the indiscriminate collection of phone records is neither legal nor useful. The President should pay heed and instruct the NSA to stop gathering information on millions of law-abiding people.” 

Learn more about the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board here.

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