Advisory Panel Tells President To Stop Letting NSA Collect Everyone’s Phone Data

An advisory panel to President Obama is calling for an end to the NSA’s highly controversial phone data collection program.

As the LA Times reports, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board released a report in which they recommend ending the bulk data collection, saying that not only is it an unnecessary and unlawful invasion of privacy, but also that it doesn’t actually accomplish anything.

The five-member board wrote in the report:

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.

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.

The NSA has claimed authorization from the Patriot Act to collect phone “metadata” records from all Americans, including information about when calls are placed, to what numbers, from what numbers, and how long they last.

Section 215 of the Act, under which the NSA claims that authority, says that information must be “relevant” to a counter-terrorism investigation. The panel challenged the idea that every single phone conversation held in the United States could actually be relevant to such investigations.

The legality and constitutionality of the phone data collection have been questioned before. Just over a week ago, on January 17, President Obama announced his intention to reform, but not completely to end, the NSA program.

Advisory panel calls for end to bulk collection of U.S. phone records [Los Angeles Times]