An independent executive branch board has concluded that the National Security Agency’s long-running program to collect billions of Americans’ phone records is illegal and should end.
In a strongly worded report issued Thursday, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) said that the statute upon which the program was based, Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, “does not provide an adequate basis to support this program.”
The board’s conclusion goes further than President Obama, who said in a speech Friday that he thought the NSA’s database of records should be moved out of government hands but did not call for an outright halt to the program. The board had shared its conclusions with Obama in the days leading up to his speech.
The panel also concluded that the program raises serious threats to civil liberties, has shown limited value in countering terrorism and is not sustainable from a policy perspective.
The board is the third official government entity in recent months to examine the NSA’s metadata program and question its utility in fighting terrorism. In December, a federal judge found that the metadata program was likely unconstitutional and wrote that he had ”serious doubts about the efficacy of the metadata collection program.” Shortly thereafter, a White House appointed surveillance policy review board found that the program was “not essential” to preventing attacks.