Posted by on January 23, 2014 in Blog

On Friday, January 17, 2014, President Obama offered his much anticipated speech on surveillance. While advocates were hopeful that the President's remarks would support significant reforms to curb mass surveillance, his remarks fell short of expectations.

While President Obama offered reforms to increase transparency and implement additional safeguards for citizens and non-citizens alike, he failed to acknowledge the abusive nature of mass surveillance. The President’s speech was unfortunately inadequate and simply didn’t go far enough. 

Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI), a harsh critic of the NSA and Chairman of the House Liberty Caucus said the following in response to the President’s speech: “Nothing the President said today will end the unconstitutional invasion of Americans’ privacy. The President said he will not end the Patriot Act’s Sec. 215 program that collects the records of every phone call every American makes. Instead, he said that the government will continue to search those records without a warrant – but just a little less vigorously.” 

And Virginia Sloan, president of the bipartisan legal watchdog group, The Constitution Project called the President’s surveillance speech “a wasted opportunity.” “We are disappointed that President Obama chose not to end the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone call records, nor to provide any specifics on how he would significantly alter it, even though his own hand-picked panel of intelligence experts urged him to substantially reform the program,” said Sloan.

By retaining mass personal data on innocent Americans and simply shifting the storage to another entity does not address this problem. 

Today, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), an independent agency within the executive branch that advises the President on privacy and civil liberties concerns, has concluded that the NSA's dragnet collection of billions of Americans' phone records is illegal and should end. In the report, the PCLOB concluded that Section 215 of the Patriot Act "does not provide an adequate basis to support this program." Additionally, the Board concluded that the program poses threats to civil liberties, has not been of value to countering terrorism and is not sound public policy. 

The PCLOB's recommendations to end the NSA's metadata program go further than the reforms outlined by the President in his speech on Friday and fall in line with what advocates have been proposing and been outlined in the USA Freedom Act, an NSA reform bill.       

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