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The body charged by President Obama with protecting the civil liberties and privacy of the American people exists in shadows almost as dark as the intelligence agencies it is designed to oversee.
The Privacy & Civil Liberties Board (PCLOB) was due to meet Obama at the White House on Friday afternoon at 3pm in the situation room to discuss growing concerns over US surveillance of phone and internet records – or, at least, that's what unnamed "senior administration officials" said would happen.
The board issued a statement after meeting Obama. It reads, in full:
We were very pleased to meet with the President today. We informed the President that the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), an independent, bipartisan federal agency, is undertaking a review of the recently revealed surveillance programs as a top priority. We conveyed our appreciation for the briefings we have received to date. We informed the President that we plan to seek additional briefings, including as to the effectiveness and practical aspects of these programs. We informed the President that as part of our oversight effort, we are scheduling a full day public workshop to seek input from invited experts, academics and advocacy organizations as to the legal bases for these programs and potential options to address privacy and civil liberties concerns.
We discussed with the President our recommendation that every effort be made to publicly provide the legal rationale for the programs in order to enhance the public discussion and debate about the legality and propriety of the country's counterterrorism efforts.
As we informed the President, and have informed Senators in response to a specific inquiry, we will produce a public report containing our conclusions and recommendations.
I do hope that all of you are as inspired and encouraged as I am by the giant step that has been taken today toward opening a vital public debate about the government and its secret goings on.