Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 11, 2016

Surveillance Program Produces ‘Valuable and Effective’ Information, Watchdog Says

CQ Roll Call’s Rob Margetta writes that the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has concluded that the “government’s use of controversial intelligence authority used to target the communications of foreigners has been legal and useful, in contrast to accusations from several lawmakers who have labeled such programs as ‘backdoor’ surveillance on Americans.”

From the report from the independent, bipartisan agency, released Wednesday:

Overall, the Board has found that the information the program collects has been valuable and effective in protecting the nation’s security and producing useful foreign intelligence. The program has operated under a statute that was publicly debated, and the text of the statute outlines the basic structure of the program. Operations of the Section 702 program has been subject to judicial oversight and extensive internal supervision, and the Board has found no evidence of intentional abuse.

The Board has found that certain aspects of the program’s implementation raise privacy concerns. These include the scope of the incidental collection of U.S. persons’ communications and the use of queries to search the information collected under the program for the communications of specific U.S. persons. The Board offers a series of policy recommendations to strengthen privacy safeguards and to address these concerns.

Among the board’s recommendations, according to Margetta: “The board recommended that the National Security Agency should take steps to better document how much information on U.S. citizens and residents it collects and specify its criteria for targeting foreigners.”

Margetta also reports that privacy advocacy groups were disappointed that the report wasn’t more critical.

The full report, which includes its recommendations, can be found here.

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