privacy board says NSA phone program illegal, should end: reports
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[January 23, 2014]
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The U.S.
National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records provides
only minimal benefits to countering terrorism, is illegal and should
end, a federal privacy watchdog said in a report to be released on
Thursday, according to media reports.
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent
government agency, has shared its conclusions with President Barack
Obama, according to reports in the New York Times and Washington
Post. The board was not immediately available for comment.
Its conclusion goes further than Obama, who said in a speech on
Friday that he thought the NSA's database of records should be moved
out of government hands but did not call for an outright halt to the
Members of Congress are divided about the value and legality of the
program, which collects data on millions of phone calls made in the
United States but not the content of the calls. The report could add
ammunition to those lawmakers seeking an end to the program.
"We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the
United States in which the telephone records program made a concrete
difference in the outcome of a counter terrorism investigation," the
board said, according to the newspapers.
The board concluded that the NSA collection raises constitutional
concerns with regard to U.S. citizens' rights of speech, association
"The connections revealed by the extensive database of telephone
records gathered under the program will necessarily include
relationships established among individuals and groups for
political, religious, and other expressive purposes," the board
said, according to the Times and Post.
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"Compelled disclosure to the government of information revealing
these associations can have a chilling effect on the exercise of
First Amendment rights," the board said.
The five-member board was not unanimous on the issue of ending bulk
collection. Two members concluded that the program, if modified to
include additional privacy protections, should continue, the
(Writing by Eric Beech; editing by Stephen Powell)
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