Panel says NSA phone data collection illegal, advises end to program

Windsor Genova – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Washington, DC, United States (4E) – A government advisory body on civil liberties has found the National Security Agency’s program of collecting telephone call metadata illegal and recommended its suspension.

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board’s findings are contained in a report it released Thursday. The report cited two laws the program violates. The Patriots Act does not support the NSA’s collection of records of telephone calls while the Electronic Communications Privacy Act prohibits telephone companies from giving customer records to the government except in response to a specific search warrant, according to the board’s report.

The board also claimed in the report that the program failed to make a difference in any counter-terrorism investigation. This particular finding, according to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, validates criticisms that the program has not been critical to national security so “is not worth the intrusion on Americans’ privacy, and should be shut down immediately.”

Based on its findings, the board recommended that the government end the program or change the period for which metadata should be retained from five years to three years.

Two Republican members of the board, however, defended the NSA program and recommended that Congress reauthorized it by June 2015, when it expires.

The board’s findings contradict those of President Barack Obama’s task force, which found no abuse of the program’s database. On this basis, Obama saw that the program should be preserved. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden also defended the NSA program.

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