The PCLOB’s Recommendations for a More Reasonable Surveillance Program
By Max Kwon – Edited by Sarah O’Loughlin
Report on the Surveillance Program Operated Pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
On July 2, 2014, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (“PCLOB”) issued a report analyzing the legal and policy implications of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (“FISA”). Section 702 was introduced by Congress through the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 and allows the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence to “jointly authorize surveillance targeting persons who are not U.S. persons, and who are reasonably believed to be located outside the United State, with the compelled assistance of electronic communication service providers, in order to acquire foreign intelligence information.” Report at 6. The PCLOB concluded that “the core Section 702 program is clearly authorized by Congress, reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, and an extremely valuable and effective intelligence tool,” Id. at 15, but noted that “the applicable rules potentially allow a great deal of private information about U.S. persons to be acquired by the government.” Id. at 11. In order to “ensure that the program remains tied to its constitutionally legitimate core,” the PCLOB outlined a set of ten policy proposals aimed at increasing accountability, transparency, and efficacy of the surveillance program. Id. at 9.
Pursuant to Section 702, the Attorney General and Director of National Intelligence can make annual certifications that identify categories of information to be collected without specifying the particular non-U.S. persons who will be targeted. Id. Although Section 702 requires the government to develop targeting and “minimization” procedures in order minimize “incidental” or “inadvertent” surveillance of U.S. persons, the PCLOB stated that “certain features of the [Section 702] program implicate privacy concerns” regarding the scope and usage of U.S. person communications that are collected. Id. at 6–10.