January 23, 2014
The US government’s privacy board has sharply rebuked President Barack Obama over the National Security Agency’s mass collection of American phone data, saying the program defended by Obama last week was illegal and ought to be shut down.
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent and long-troubled liberties advocate in the executive branch, issued a report on Thursday that concludes the NSA’s collection of every US phone record on a daily basis violates the legal restrictions of the statute cited to authorize it, section 215 of the Patriot Act.
The recommendations of the five-member board, which were not unanimous, amount to the strongest criticism within the US government yet of the highly controversial surveillance program, first disclosed by the Guardian thanks to whistleblower Edward Snowden. They give fresh support to congressional efforts at ending the practice on Capitol Hill – the main political battleground where the scope of surveillance will be readjusted this year.