On April 8, 2011, Senators Lieberman, Collins, and Akaka of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee sent a letter to President Obama urging him to immediately nominate a full slate of members to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). All five seats on the Board, an independent entity tasked with investigating Executive Branch actions “to ensure that efforts to combat terrorism do not encroach on vital freedoms,” have remained vacant since 2008. The senators argued that the US government’s expanded post-9/11 homeland security and counterterrorism capabilities have increased the potential for increased privacy and civil rights violations. Hence, these capabilities require careful monitoring by, among other things, a fully functional PCLOB. The statutory charter for the PCLOB gives it a role both in providing advice on policy development and implementation, and in reviewing specific programs and other government actions relating to terrorism.
Since the Markle Task Force on National Security released its first report in 2002, Protecting America’s Freedom in the Information Age, it has consistently advocated for privacy and civil liberties protections to be incorporated into counterterrorism policies. In its March 2009 report, Nation At Risk, the Markle Task Force suggested that “the President and Congress should act expeditiously—within the next 60 days—to nominate and confirm members to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.” Over a year ago, Markle President and Task Force Co-Chair, Zoe Baird, and Markle Task Force member, former Senator Slade Gorton, submitted testimony to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary reiterating the urgent need to move ahead with nominating the PCLOB. We continue to advocate for the implementation of mechanisms to protect privacy and civil liberties, and we invite you to learn more about our work in this area.