Federal Privacy Board: NSA Bulk Phone Records Collection Illegal

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January 23, 2014 11:46 a.m.

This post has been updated.

An independent federal oversight agency found that the National Security Agency’s program that collects bulk phone records is illegal and concluded that the government should shut down the program, according to an advance copy of the report obtained by the New York Times on Thursday.

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board found that the surveillance program had “minimal” benefits in preventing terrorist attacks.

In the report, PCLOB said that the program “lacks a viable legal foundation under Section 215, implicates constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments, raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties as a policy matter, and has shown only limited value.”

Of the five-member panel, three agreed that the program is illegal and two disagreed with that conclusion. However, all board members agreed on certain measures to curb the program, including deleting records after three years instead of five and limiting ability to search records, according to the Times.

This report comes on the heels of President Obama’s speech last week, during which he proposed new limitations on the phone records collection program.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Thursday called on Obama to end NSA collection of bulk phone records based on the findings in the new report.

“This report underscores that the collection of records on virtually every phone call made in the United States is an unconstitutional violation of the privacy rights guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment,” Sanders said in a statement. “The president’s recommendations last week did not go far enough to rein in the out-of-control National Security Agency‎. Congress must pass strong legislation to protect the privacy and civil liberties of the American people.”

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