On Oct. 31, 2012, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) held its first meeting, soliciting public feedback for its agenda and priorities. Created in response to a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, the PCLOB is an independent body within the President’s office with a mandate to ensure privacy and civil liberties in the creation and implementation of U.S. law and policy against terrorism. The Defending Dissent Foundation, Electronic Privacy Information Center, and OMB Watch were among the groups who submitted comments and recommendations, urging the board to be open and transparent in its own activities and conduct thorough oversight on the government’s widespread surveillance regime, including the collection and storage of data related to activist groups’ First Amendment activities and the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program.
The Board has been dormant since it was originally created by Congress in 2004. Three years later the PCLOB became an independent entity within the Executive Branch, but its five seats remained vacant. President Obama did not submit nominations until 2010, and the Senate did not confirm them until August 2012. The board remains without a chair: the Senate Judiciary Committee approved President Obama’s nominee, David Medine, in May, but the full Senate has not taken up the nomination
The Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 established the Board as an independent agency 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.”