Review Board Defends Information Collection under FISA Section 702

LaptopThe U.S. Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB or ‘the Board’) released yesterday a report on the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance and collection activities conducted under Section 702 of FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978). In 2013, following the disclosure of classified information by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the Board was commissioned to perform a review of two NSA surveillance programs: Section 215 which authorizes the NSA to collect call records in bulk, and Section 702 which allows the government to collect the contents of telephone calls, emails, and other electronic communication. This July 2014 release focuses on the Section 702 program. It seeks to “ensure that the need for such [collection and surveillance] actions is balanced with the need to protect privacy and civil liberties” by providing both a legal and policy analysis of the program.

Ultimately, the Board determined that internet monitoring under the 702 program is legal. The report found “that the protection contained in the Section 702 minimization procedures are reasonably designed and implemented to ward against the exploitation of information acquired under the program for illegitimate purposes. The Board has seen no trace of any such illegitimate activity associated with the program, or any attempt to intentionally circumvent legal limits.”

That being said, the Board did provide 10 recommendations to the intelligence community (IC) to ensure that government surveillance will continue to protect the homeland while simultaneously protecting Americans’ privacy. These recommendations pertain to person queries, the role of the FISA Court, upstream and “about” collection, accountability and transparency, and efficacy. A summary of each recommendation can be found on page 11 of the report.

The previously issued January 2014 PCLOB report on the Section 215 program can also be read within the HSDL collection.

For more information on the legality of government surveillance and data collection, check out the HSDL “Featured Topic” list, Electronic Surveillance. (Login required).

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