Today, the U.S. Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (“PCLOB”) released its “Report on the Surveillance Program Operated Pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” which details both the PRISM program and “upstream” collection practices. Under these programs, government agencies collect tremendous amounts of communications information for “foreign intelligence” purposes. Unfortunately, in its report, the Board failed to suggest any reforms that would protect the rights of non-U.S. persons, yet these are precisely the users most frequently and egregiously affected by Section 702 surveillance programs.
“PCLOB’s failure to call out the human rights abuses that have been conducted under 702 is as disappointing as it is offensive,” said Jochai Ben-Avie, Policy Director at Access, “By ignoring the rights of millions of users around the world, the PCLOB has disregarded both U.S. treaty obligations and international human rights standards.”
The PCLOB’s recommendations focus on ways individual programs and internal oversight can be improved, but fail to suggest legislative reform of Section 702 itself.
“In spite of the sweeping mass surveillance that we know has been conducted under Section 702, the Board seems to believe that legislative reform is not necessary,” said Amie Stepanovich, Senior Policy Counsel at Access, “However, increased transparency and other internal oversight mechanisms are simply not enough to curb surveillance abuse. Congress must move swiftly to reform the underlying statutory authority behind this.”
This report stands in stark contrast to the PCLOB’s Section 215 Report, released earlier this year, which detailed and sharply rebuked the U.S. government’s telephony metadata collection program. We at Access are disheartened that the Board failed to show similar concern for the rights of non-U.S. persons in this report.