Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Good Idea of the Day
Key lawmakers want to replace a White House privacy and civil liberties board created by Congress in 2004 with one that is more independent of the president. —Ellen Nakashima writing in "Congress Seeks 'Bite' For Privacy Watchdog"
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has protected neither privacy nor civil liberties. Both the Senate and the House are now trying to give it more power, and the board is resisting, which should tell you something.
The House provision would remove the board from the Executive Office of the President but keep it within the executive branch and give it subpoena power, as recommended by the 9/11 Commission.
This is good so far as it goes, but the agency really should be removed from the executive branch. If the Congress can establish an in-house agency to oversee how the Palestinians are spending U.S. contributions—on a daily basis—it can damn well establish an agency to keep tabs on executive-branch incursions into Americans' civil liberties and privacy.
The board visited the National Security Agency (NSA), which spies on us all, twice. On the basis of those visits Vice Chairman Alan Charles Raul offered this reassurance—
The surveillance under the program is very highly regimented and justified both internally within the agency and now externally to the FISA court.
Memo to Vice Chairman Raul: So far as I've been able to determine, the KGB, the Stasi, the Gestapo and—oh, the FBI's COINTELPRO—were all "highly regimented" and "internally justified." And the recent agreement by the White House to subject NSA snooping to review by the FISA court did not come about as a result of any action taken by your agency.
U.S. Congress to run Palestinian Authority (6/13/05)