An independent review board working to protect Americans’ civil liberties and privacy has concluded that the US National Security Agency’s phone data collection program is illegal and should be stopped.
In a 238 - page report to be issued on Thursday, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board(PCLOB) has said that a law known as Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act “does not provide an adequate basis to support” the NSA’s program for collecting billions of Americans’ phone records on a daily basis. The report, which was obtained byThe Washington PostandThe New York Times, also says that there has been no single instance in which the US government’s spying program contributed to the discovery of a terrorist threat to the United States. “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 counterterrorism investigation,” the report said. “Moreover, we are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack,” it added. While the board had shared its conclusions with US President Barack Obama prior to his speech on Friday, the report is in contrast to Obama’s speech which portrayed the program as useful and lawful. During his speech on Friday in which Obama promised some modest changes to the NSA’s spying programs, the US President did not indicate that the phone data collection program should be stopped. He said the NSA’s database of phone records should be moved out of government hands and be kept by private phone companies. However, the PCLOB says the program should be shut down. “Cessation of the program would eliminate the privacy and civil liberties concerns associated with bulk collection,” said the board in its report.