Washington, DC – An independent bipartisan agency within the Executive Branch has issued a landmark 238-page report that concludes the bulk metadata telephony program conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA) has provided only “minimal” benefits in counterterrorism efforts, is illegal, and should be closed down.
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) report further confirms the whistleblower status of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who made significant revelations to the media in June 2013 of NSA surveillance programs he reasonably believed to be unconstitutional. Mr. Snowden was later charged in mid-June with two counts of espionage under a criminal complaint.
The PCLOB also pointed to the fact that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court failed to produce a judicial opinion on the legal rationale for the metadata program. It wasn’t until two months after the Snowden disclosures that this legal rationale, which is still classified, was produced, although the court had issued orders for records to phone companies and to NSA on procedural problems since May 2006.
In addition, the report released by the PCLOB today raises fundamental questions about the utility of the metadata program. The report stated that the Board found “no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.”
This latest assessment of the metadata program highlights once again the significance of Edward Snowden’s disclosures. “Mr. Snowden has been charged as a spy, but the findings of the government’s own watchdog group, last month’s decision by Judge Leon, and the recommendations of the President’s blue-ribbon panel make it clear he’s a whistleblower. Let’s not forget the legal rationale wasn’t produced, and the PCLOB group itself hadn’t even met, until after Mr. Snowden’s revelations. None of this would have happened if it weren’t for his disclosures in June,” stated Government Accountability Project (GAP) Executive Director Beatrice Edwards. “We will continue to fight on his behalf to assert his rights as an American whistleblower.”
GAP champions government and corporate accountability and transparency by defending whistleblowers and advancing occupational free speech. Since its founding in 1977, GAP has helped in the effective exercise of conscience of over 5,000 whistleblowers.